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7 posts from December 16, 2013

December 16, 2013

Insurance firm recruits nonprofits to sell Obamacare as a fundraiser


The Stuart-based Fiorella Insurance Agency made headlines a couple of months ago when it began using the Obamacare Enrollment Team name to insinuate official ties to the health care law and sell policies to unsuspecting people, setting off an ongoing state inquiry.

Now the firm is reaching out to nonprofit organizations that are registered supporters of the Affordable Care Act — so-called "Champions for Coverage" — and trying to get these organizations to help generate leads to sell insurance.

The "champions," some 900 organizations across the country with 50 in Florida, agree to have their names on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website as groups that support the law's implementation.

Two weeks ago, the Tallahassee alumni chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority received a message on its website from a Fiorella representative with "ACA Champion" in the subject line. The message said there is an opportunity to help people get insurance beyond the official healthcare.gov website.

"There is another way for people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act," wrote Don Olsen, an insurance agent in Sarasota who identified himself as a Fiorella representative. "One that will donate money to your organization for each person that signs up under your direction. How much? For every 1,000 enrollees means between $50,000 to $100,000 to you. Interested?"

Delta Sigma Theta chapter president Dorcas Washington chose to ignore the email.

Read more here.

FPL wants customers to pay for new plants under emissions law

Fpl plantWhen the federal government issued new air quality guidelines in 2010 to protect the elderly, children, and people with asthma from nitrogen oxide emissions, Florida Power & Light took notice.

The 48 gas turbines that the company uses to fire up quickly during peak demand rely on 1970s-era technology. Although the company touts a record of having power plants that are “67 percent cleaner than the national average,” it also acknowledges that these older so-called “peaker” plants emit some of the most toxic pollutants.

In order to comply with the new standard, FPL decided it was time to replace all of its peak demand turbines between now and 2016 and, in June, it proposed a $822 million project. The costs would be borne by customers based on a monthly fee – FPL estimates it is less than 75-cents a month for customers that use 1,000 kilowatt hours – and added to the portion of the bill used to comply with environmental regulations.

The proposal would allow the company to replace aging generators in Broward and Lee counties, avoid a lengthy rate review by utility regulators, update its emissions technology and still give the company a revenue boost that would allow it to increase its profits.

But not everyone agrees with FPL that this was the right approach and, on Tuesday, FPL will ask the Public Service Commission to dismiss its proposal while it conducts a series of environmental tests. The goal, the company said, is to come back and ask for the rate increase again, once the tests are complete.

“It could be the same project; it could be a different project,’’ said Mark Bubriski, Florida Power & Light spokesman. More here. 

Photo: Walter Michot, Miami Herald

After Obamacare signup, Marco Rubio defends $10k subsidy some Republicans call "special deal"


Though a staunch Obamacare critic, Sen. Marco Rubio has enrolled his family in one of its health plans and will accept a $10,000 federal subsidy that some fellow Republicans rejected as a "special deal."

Rubio on Monday defended his decision to receive the annual subsidy and said it wasn’t that special.

"It’s an [employer] contribution," Rubio said. "It’s available to every employee of the federal government."

Rubio pointed out that, as a member of Congress, he’s required to enroll in an Affordable Care Act plan if he wants health insurance through his employer, the federal government.

But while Rubio’s position is technically correct —- he is receiving a type of insurance contribution from his employer that’s common in government and the private sector — his decision to accept the subsidy poses political risks for the 2016 GOP presidential hopeful.

Rubio’s decision has drawn fire from Democrats, who charge him with hypocrisy, and puts him at odds with some Republicans who are refusing to accept the federal contribution money in a protest of the Affordable Care Act.

Others have shied away from the subsidy to insulate themselves from political attacks that Congress is enjoying a special perk under Obamacare.

So far, about 10 other senators and a handful of U.S. House members have rejected or avoided receiving the annual subsidy.

Rubio said he would vote to do away with the subsidy if it applied to everyone equally. Until then, he’s keeping the money.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina didn’t want to wait that long. He made a big deal last week when he announced he was enrolling in Obamacare but rejecting the employer contribution.

"I don't think members of Congress should get a special deal," Graham said in a press release. "Obamacare is being pushed on the American people and we should live under it just like everyone else."

More here

Movers & Shakers

Longtime legislative analyst retiring from Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee

Carol Preston will be retiring after a long career with the legislature at the end of the year. Preston, the chief legislative analyst for the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs, served for five years in the Senate and 14 years in the House.

Praising Preston at a Dec. 10th meeting of the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs, Sen. Nancy Detert, said the analyst “personally wrote most of the laws that we’re dealing with and fixed the ones that needed fixing.

“I know I couldn’t do my work on this committee without Carol Preston,” said Detert, R-Venice. "Just want her to know how grateful I am for her and always will be for her wonderful work. I think what people want to know at the end of their work career is ‘Did your life matter?’ And Carol Preston’s life certainly mattered to all of us.”

The committee also announced the addition of two new staffers. Peggy Sanford, who was an attorney with the Department of Children & Families, will be replacing Preston as the new chief legislative analyst. Barbara Crosier, an attorney who was the director of the Division of State Group Health Insurance at the Department of Management Services, is replacing Ashley Daniell as chief attorney. Daniell left the Senate for the private sector.

New communications director for Sen. Bean

Meghan Tarsitano is the new communications director for Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach. Tarsitano previously worked for U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw's re-election campaign.

Governor appointees

Elena Spottswood, a Key West community activist, has been appointed by Attorney General Pam Bondi to the Florida Commission on the Status of Women.

Continue reading "Movers & Shakers" »

American Bridge savages Rick Scott appointees' scandals and controversies


Amid the outfall over chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth's admission he lied about his degree years ago, Gov. Rick Scott is again the target of a video montage made by American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal group that has an extensive media-tracker network.

This video -- a greatest-hits list of resignations, controversies and scandals that have nagged at Scott -- juxtaposes how the governor stands by appointees and insists they've done a "great job," only to see them resign.

One point Scott defenders will be quick to note: An independent panel in Indiana cleared former Education Commissioner Tony Bennett of wrongdoing in a school-grading controversy (more here). Separately, in Indiana, Bennett faces an ethics complaint for allegedly using government workers for campaign purposes.

Gov. Scott doesn't appear to be in any rush to fill Brow school board opening


Update included about Leach and from Gov. Rick Scott's office:

Broward school board member Katie Leach officially steps down in a few days and Gov. Rick Scott doesn’t appear to be in any rush to fill the vacancy.

Leach, one of only two GOPers on the  board, announced in late October that she was leaving due to her husband getting a new job in California. Her resignation letter stated she would leave on Dec. 21. The school district's communications office told us Leach was not expected to attend the last meeting of the year tomorrow but Leach contacted us and said she will be there. 

A Scott spokeswoman said today that there is no timeline for Scott to appoint a replacement.

Several people have applied for the opening including Bayview elementary PTA president Heather Brinkworth, a former Broward reading teacher who has the backing of Leach and former state sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff (R-Fort Lauderdale). Brinkworth changed her voter registration from independent to Republican in October.

The other applicant to watch is retired Broward principal Wanda Ross who is married to Broward Judge Dale Ross. Wanda Ross is a Republican and backed by former Republican state legislator and county commissioner Jim Scott.

There have been rumors that Fort Lauderdale attorney Alexis Yarbrough plans to apply but Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said that she hasn't so far. Yarbrough's husband is Shane Strum, a former chief of staff to Gov. Charlie Crist and a past Broward GOP chair. 

After Tuesday, the next regular school board meeting isn’t until Jan. 22. There are nine members on the board so a vacancy could leave the board with some tie votes.


After Obama wins Lie of the Year, more spin from his administration

President Obama lied. Millions of health-insurance policies will die.

And he, his administration and Democrats are paying dearly for it.

On Thursday, Obama was awarded PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year” for repeatedly saying “if you like your insurance plan, you can keep it” under the Affordable Care Act.

The administration refuses to fully fess up to the lie.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius refused to do it Friday during a Miami trip touting Obamacare. And Obama has tried to rewrite history.

“What we said was, you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed,” Obama said Nov. 4.

PolitiFact rated that statement Pants-on-Fire false.

So the president lied. Then he told a whopper about his lie. What’s to say the other assurances about the Affordable Care Act are true?

The day after Obama won the Lie of the Year, Sebelius hosted her made-for-TV chat with Obamacare recipients and advocates at the downtown Miami-Dade Main Library.

Ducking two questions about the lie, Sebelius talked up the act’s improved sign-up website and the success stories of prospective enrollees who are getting good coverage for little money.

“I hope you all will become part of the effort to spread the word,’’ she said.

But this administration’s word isn’t so trustworthy.

Column here