March 26, 2010

The Congresswoman Offers Hope To A Businessman Facing A Crushing Increase In HIs Insurance Premiums

  Jonathan Beeton, Communications Director for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, responded to a previous post from a South Florida businessman facing a 78 percent jump in his health insurance costs:

   Mr. Friedman’s case is a very good example of someone who will benefit immediately from the new health reform legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by the President. As a small business owner, he’ll receive a tax credit for up to 35% of his business’s cost for health insurance –and this takes place this year.

    I’m not aware of his individual circumstance, but if part of the reason for the high-cost is due to pre-existing conditions, then this year he will be able to buy into a federal high-risk insurance pool. In 2014, when the insurance exchange (essentially a group buying pool) kicks in, Mr. Friedman will be able to pick from a variety of different plans from different providers who will be competing for customers in that pool (which should drive down costs).    The bill also creates a federal insurance rate authority which will be able to challenge substantial rate hikes and, if found to be unjustified, the insurance company would be required to offer rebates to its customers.

The Congresswoman apologizes that if when Mr. Friedman wrote to her in 2002 he did not get a response, she certainly always strives to respond to the families she represents.

Posted by Fred Grimm at 02:42 PM
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March 25, 2010

The Wallop Of Small Business Health Insurance


   
Oscar Friedman of Cooper City has written about his unhappy and very expensive experience with health insurance for his small business.
  
  
  Upon receiving my health insurance renewal for my small business health insurance plan that covers just me, the sole proprietor, I was looking at a 78% increase in my annual premiums. The cost for my premiums and deductible would be $20,000 for the year. Again, this is for a sole proprietor of a small business.
    When I filed a complaint with the Florida Insurance Commissioner, I received an email response from the Consumer Affairs division that stated that there was a change in Florida law in 2002 where the insurance companies no longer needed to get approval of their rates from the Insurance Commissioner and could charge whatever they wanted to! In addition, they could charge up the 125% to small businesses like mine.
   I sent an email to many of the Florida legislators at that time, including
Marco Rubio and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (since they were in the legislature when this law changed) asking them where they were on this and have not received any responses. Not surprised there.

Posted by Fred Grimm at 09:23 AM
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March 23, 2010

A Cheaper, More Effective And Ultimately Discarded Approach To Corrections

    Michael Miller, reacting to my column on the disparate calls for re-think pouring so much money to building new prisons in Florida, offers his personal insight:

   

In the mid 1990's, the FL: department of corrections, realizing it would soon run out of prison space and have to discharge prisoners, implemented what they called a "non-secure" community based drug treatment program. Referred to them as an alternative to incarceration were non-violent drug offenders determined to need treatment.
    At the Village South, we treated about 60 at a time, in  the program designed by DOC, which included 2 months of intensive residential treatment followed by 4 months of residential treatment while getting jobs and working during the day.
    These diversion clients were closely monitored; I dare say we knew more about their whereabouts then is known about community control probationers.
    Did I mention what we were paid?  $35/day per client. This was too little, true. But compare that to the cost of a prison bed, which at that time was somewhere around $90-$110/day, if my memory serves me correct.
    Furthermore, the DOC's own recidivism statistics showed less recidivism among this group than among those going through the prison system.
    So what ultimately happened? The state built more prisons, canceled this program, and filled the prisons at increased cost to taxpayers.
    The cynical might ask: who's interest does our legislature serve?  .

 

Posted by Fred Grimm at 12:30 PM
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March 09, 2010

Legitimate Patients Hurt By Pill Mills

   Reader Kandy Moore of Key Largo, reacting to my column on pill mills and the astounding quantity of Oxycodone dispensed by South Florida pain clinics and the huge amount of profit involved in this shadey commerce, offers another side to the scandal.
   As I sit reading your column on Oxy Pill Mills, I am wondering
how ".tough new pill mill laws.2010 legislative session" will affect someone
like me, who has a legitimate reason to use Oxycodone for pain management,
and who has to literally 'jump through hoops' to obtain the medication?
   I am allowed only 30 days' supply at one time and must have a physical
examination every 60 days by my physician in order to receive a prescription
for Oxycodone/Oxycontin, per DEA regulations.  Of course the physical exam is not free & the pills are extremely expensive even with insurance ($384.00
per month).
   I don't understand how those doctors, as mentioned in your
article, can dispense those large numbers of medication without more timely
scrutiny. How do they get the large number of pills they are prescribing?
Who is the source?
  These crooks make it hard for everyone, don't they?!

Posted by Fred Grimm at 10:24 AM
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March 04, 2010

Just Who Put the NRA Ahead of Kids?

    Thirty one members of the Florida Senate voted to deem the gun registration trust fund sacrosanct, making it illegal to raise the fund to fill the gaping holes in the budget. The senators didn't feel compelled to offer protection to other trust funds, including the Lawton Chiles Endowment Fund, which pours money from the tobacco lawsuit settlement into children health and welfare programs. Who voted for the fund? And who didn't. The NRA provides the scorecard, via e-mail addresses:


VOTING FOR THE BILL:

alexander.jd.web@flsenate.gov,
altman.thad.web@flsenate.gov,
aronberg.dave.web@flsenate.gov,
atwater.jeff.web@flsenate.gov,
baker.carey.web@flsenate.gov,
bennett.mike.web@flsenate.gov,
constantine.lee.web@flsenate.gov,
crist.victor.web@flsenate.gov,
dean.charles.web@flsenate.gov,
detert.nancy.web@flsenate.gov,
dockery.paula.web@flsenate.gov,
fasano.mike.web@flsenate.gov,
gaetz.don.web@flsenate.gov,
garcia.rudy.web@flsenate.gov,
gardiner.andy.web@flsenate.gov,
gelber.dan.web@flsenate.gov,
haridopolos.mike.web@flsenate.gov,
hill.tony.web@flsenate.gov,
jones.dennis.web@flsenate.gov,
justice.charlie.web@flsenate.gov,
lawson.alfred.web@flsenate.gov,
lynn.evelyn.web@flsenate.gov,
negron.joe.web@flsenate.gov,
oelrich.steve.web@flsenate.gov,
peaden.durell.web@flsenate.gov,
portilla.alex.web@flsenate.gov,
richter.garrett@flsenate.gov,
storms.ronda.web@flsenate.gov,
thrasher.john.web@flsenate.gov,
villalobos.alex.web@flsenate.gov,
wise.stephen.web@flsenate.gov,

VOTING AGAINST THE BILL:

bullard.larcenia.web@flsenate.gov,
deutch.ted.web@flsenate.gov,
joyner.arthenia.web@flsenate.gov,
rich.nan.web@flsenate.gov,
ring.jeremy.web@flsenate.gov,
siplin.gary.web@flsenate.gov,
smith.chris.web@flsenate.gov,
sobel.eleanor.web@flsenate.gov,
wilson.frederica.web@flsenate.gov,

Posted by Fred Grimm at 04:51 PM
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March 03, 2010

The Rubio Campaigne Responds To Haircut Allegation

    Alex Burgos, communications director for the Marco Rubio campaign for the U.S. Senate, offered the following response to my column, particularly in regard to the $134 haircut item that has attracted so much media attention:

   On behalf of Marco Rubio's campaign, I'm
writing to address some of the points you raised in your column today.

    First, you cite a $134 haircut.  However, what appeared on the leaked credit
card statement was a charge of $133.75 at Churchill's Barber Shop in Miami. A simple call to that business would quickly reveal that
haircuts there cost $20.

    Second, you present a detailed listing of Ray Sansom's charges, which have nothing to do with Mr. Rubio.
   
   Third, Mr. Rubio's expenses were covered by the state party because they
dealt with political activities he was engaged in on behalf of the
Republican Party.  Nearly 90% of Rubio's expenditures were directly related
to air travel, automobile travel, lodging and meals directly related to his
official duties as a leader within the Republican Party of Florida. In two
years, only 20 out of the nearly 800 transactions were personal in nature,
and he paid directly for each of them.  It's no different than any employer
that foots the bill for employee expenses incurred while conducting official
business. 

   For those charges that were of a personal nature, Rubio made timely direct payments to American Express totaling more than $16,000 to cover all
personal expenditures.  These were paid during the period that he had the
card, not after he left office as some have erroneously reported or claimed.

    I know it is a difficult story to follow, as leaked political hits are often
designed to be, but please let me know if I can help you separate fact from
fiction.

Posted by Fred Grimm at 10:45 AM
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February 18, 2010

The Mysteries of Flood Insurance

A reader, Adrianna, writes about the oft recurring problem faced by South Floridians who may, or may not, be in a flood zone;

    I  am writing to you today after my mother, a retired teacher, received a letter from her mortgage company informing her that her property of 40 years is now in a Flood Zone and she is required to obtain Flood Insurance within 45 days or they will impose a very expensive policy on the property.  My Mom has always been a very responsible citizen, has kept insurance on her property even when her income was substantially reduced.  She paid off her mortgage ahead of time so that when she retired she wouldn’t be a burden on anyone.  Because of this letter she has not slept for several nights, her blood pressure is up and is just twisted up about the entire thing.  You see she has an Equity Credit Line on this property which is open but is unused.  She keeps it just in case of an emergency, it is her peace of mind.  Now she is worried that she will have to close this line of credit because of this undue burden being imposed on her or rather someone’s desire to mess with her.

 

 

 

            She contacted her insurance agent who confirmed that in fact she is not in Flood Zone: AH but rather in Zone X which does not require flood insurance.  I went on line for her and did some research on the FEMA website to obtain the Special Flood Hazard Area Map to see if in fact she was in Zone X.  It is clear that her property is nowhere near the AH flood zone but in fact in Zone X.  She contacted the mortgage company and they insist she now needs to get an opinion from FEMA and compile an excessive amount of County documents a survey and they won’t even be able to get her a response for 30 to 60 days.  Just to prove that her property is where the FEMA Map shows that she is which is ZONE X.  I was told by FEMA that the Banks and Insurance companies have the final say on whether a property is in a Flood Zone or not, even if the FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map indicates otherwise.  She will now have to incur a great deal of expense and run around to obtain a ridiculous amount of documentation in order to prove something that is already documented on a Federal map.

            This just seems like an attempt by the Mortgage companies and the Insurance companies to get rid of a loan on their books and generate revenue by forcing citizens to buy insurance that they will not need.  My mom will now have to spend money she doesn’t have to try and keep her security blanket (she has had this Equity Credit Line open for 8 years).  I understand that this problem is being faced by a lot of Floridians and something needs to be done.

            It is very disheartening to see my Mom so upset when she has spent her entire life doing the right thing and someone can send a letter and just rock someone’s world like this.  I appreciate you taking the time to read/listen to me vent, but I couldn’t let this go.  I will fight to get her the determination from FEMA and try to help her hold on to her peace of mind.

Posted by Fred Grimm at 02:28 PM
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December 01, 2009

Beach Rights Versus Property Rights

   Richard Mason of Miami has his own theories, and a slightly unexpected perspective,  about the beach restoration questions under consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court:

  Those that live on the seashore are the real free loaders of society.  They have their insurance premium supported by the people that live inland.
  The property insurance industry operates a front lobbying operation under an environmental name to promote shore restoration. Moving the shore line out, reduces water damage to the shoreline dwellers.   Walton County passed an anti-nudity ordnance to get rid of the naturists that used traditional beach locations before the buildings were built.
   Naturists should file lawsuits opposing beach renourishment with taxpayer money in counties that ban the use of beach areas to naturists. Denying Equal Access is un-Constitutional.
   We do support the county against land take-over by shoreline property owners.  With almost 900 miles of Florida shoreline, there should be more designated areas than the 1/4 mile at Haulover Beach Park next the city of Sunny Isles Beach.
  There should be designated naturist beach areas in several state parks.  This would increase park beach attendance 80% or more and park revenues accordingly.

Posted by Fred Grimm at 02:26 PM
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FWC Outlaws The "Cruel Practice" of Fox Pens

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has put a lurching halt the unseemly practice of canned fox and coyote hunts. The unsporting practice, a northern Florida pursuit, entailed setting loose hounds on the wild animals inside fenced enclosures. The foxes and coyotes, some illegally imported from other states, were often ripped apart by the hunting dogs.

    The FWC found this indefensible. The commission's news release:

      The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) voted Wednesday to move forward with a draft rule prohibiting the operation of fox and coyote enclosures. The decision followed consideration of a suite of options to improve the process governing the enclosures and listening to several hours of comments from the public.

      The presentation by Maj. Curtis Brown with the FWC's Captive Wildlife and Investigations Section focused on humane treatment of foxes and coyotes and translocation of disease. He proposed three options for consideration, including prohibiting the enclosures outright, continuing to allow the enclosures with stricter regulations or phasing out the enclosures by January of 2013.

     After six hours of discussion and testimonies from about 80 members of the public, whose responses varied from calling the practice a "valued family tradition" to a "cruel practice and threat to traditional hunting," Chairman Rodney Barreto began the decision-making portion of the meeting.     "As long as I've been with the Commission, we've vigorously supported hunting in Florida. I don't believe this is fair chase," Barreto said. "I feel Florida needs to be a leader in America. We need to end the use of these enclosures and end them now."

    For nearly a year, the FWC has been working to make the right decisions regarding the controversial practice of chasing foxes and coyotes with dogs within enclosures. FWC staff and Commissioners have worked with the public to improve both the permit process for the enclosures and the methods by which they are maintained.

    Last September, FWC Commissioners directed the agency's law enforcement staff to review the permitting process and research the history and number of such enclosures in the state. The Commission also ceased issuing fox and coyote enclosure permits at that time.

    At the February 2010 Commission meeting, Commissioners approved the temporary prohibition of chasing foxes and coyotes in enclosures. FWC staff was directed to work with stakeholders to address certain issues of concern regarding the enclosures and to draft rules guiding them.

   FWC staff will publish a draft rule that details the definition of an enclosure, contains language addressing the prohibition and establishes a timeline for relinquishing foxes and coyotes currently in possession. Staff was directed to bring a final rule back for consideration to the September meeting in Weston. FWC staff also agreed to explore further options for dog-hunting of foxes and coyotes on open public lands around the state.

Posted by Fred Grimm at 06:17 AM
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November 06, 2009

Animal Farm, Circa 2009

      John Bomar, a sailor with a literary bent, noticed an Associated Press story out of one of his old ports, a place long subjected to a government of the Orwellian kind. The AP reported:

      Cuban purchases of U.S. food will fall by at least a third this year as the island slashes imports to stabilize an ever-weak economy further hammered by the global economic crisis, a top trade official said Monday.

      Igor Montero, head of the state import company Alimport, calculated that the communist government would spend less than $590 million on American food in 2009 once banking, shipping and other transaction costs are included. That's down at least 32 percent from last year's $870 million.

      Montero blamed the economic crisis, but also took a swipe at Washington's 47-year-old trade embargo, even though it exempts food, arguing that America should begin buying Cuban products and allowing its citizens to visit the island as tourists. ``If we aren't given more possibility to generate revenue through Cuban exports to the United States, or an exchange of visitors, it's going to be very difficult to continue to reach the levels of trade we've grown accustomed to,'' Montero said.

 

      Bomar recognized  George Orwell’s Animal Farm, reprised in the lovely island he last visited in 1996 on a Danish schooner. He wrote:

      Life on the Animal Farm Island had become even tougher for all the animals, except the pigs in charge, who had grown even fatter.

      When their gaunt ribs began to protrude embarrassingly, those who pulled the heavy loads tried not to notice, prodded on by the pigs who continued to mouth meaningless slogans.

      Sadly, in part because of the threat and "blockade" of the Giant Neighbor to the North, the animals were powerless to raise their voices in protest. You see, with the farm seemingly under siege, it gave even more power and control to the "controller" pigs. And they ruthlessly took advantage of the perceived "looming assault," trying to scare the others while they dragged one away for daring to raise his voice against them. For the clever porkers knew one thing for sure, the poor animals would rather die than submit once again to the outside interference and meddling of the Northern strangers, now that they had gained their independence.

      So now, in the evening, when the ponderous pigs sat down to their lobster and steak dinners, cool in their air conditioned dining halls, they gave a secret prayer of thanks for the enabling policies of their neighbor to the North. Then they dug in.

Posted by Fred Grimm at 10:04 AM
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