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207 posts from September 2013

September 29, 2013

Winners, losers and promises of Obamacare

@MarcACaputo

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had great Obamacare news last week: premiums nationwide will “be around 16 percent lower…

“…than originally expected.”

The second part of that talking point — about future savings relative to year-old government estimates — is crucial to understanding the public-relations war over the Affordable Care Act.

After years of conservative criticisms about Obamacare’s costs and effects, supporters desperately want more good news published about the unpopular but little-understood program. It goes online Tuesday when the public will have the first chance to get a real look at new plans for the individual-insurance market.

But though HHS Wednesday advertised the act’s “significant choice and lower than expected premiums,” some might find limited choices and Affordable Care Act rates that don’t look so affordable.

In the end, people don’t care about government expectations. They don’t buy insurance with estimates and projections.

People pay with money.

Column here

How inexperience doomed a Miami mayoral bid

@PatriciaMazzei @msanchezMIA

The beginning of the end of Francis Suarez’s promising bid to become mayor of Miami started the day his campaign got two attractive young women to work the crowd at a Cinco de Mayo party.

The assignment was not difficult: Get voters to allow the campaign to request absentee ballots for them.

The two friends flirted, downed vodka tonics and got some signatures. But not enough.

So they improvised: They filled out forms for themselves. They called a boyfriend and a sister and forged their names.

And when they ran out of people they knew, they made up names of fake voters.

Which landed them in the middle of a criminal investigation.

“We were bored,” 21-year-old Ivana Saud told the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office.

A novice campaigner, Juan Pablo Baggini, submitted 20 ballot requests — the legitimate ones — to the county elections website.

Except Florida law prohibits anyone other than a voter or his or her immediate family from filing requests online.

Baggini and his de facto boss — the candidate’s cousin and campaign manager, Esteban “Steve” Suarez — ended up charged and pleaded out to misdemeanors.

They got probation.

The candidate quit the race. He acknowledged, among other reasons, his campaign’s “mistakes.”

A review of investigation records suggests the campaign, though well-financed, relied on neophytes — well-intentioned but inexperienced relatives and friends — in a big-time election.

“We’re just a bunch of young guys trying to become the mayor of Miami,” a candid Steve Suarez told prosecutors.

More here.

Marco Rubio's top-five Obamacare distortions

@AmySherman1

Earlier this year, as immigration reform stalled and Sen. Marco Rubio faced criticism from the conservative grassroots, Florida’s Republican senator with presidential aspirations switched topics. Re-enter attacks on Obamacare.

Rubio has had plenty of company in the GOP in making a new round of attacks on President Barack Obama’s signature policy.

Here’s a look at five of Rubio’s attacks on Obamacare.

1. "The American people support defunding Obamacare and oppose shutting down the government." Mostly False.

Sept. 20, 2013 in a press release.

Rubio makes it sound like he has support from the public for his main objective, which is defunding Obamacare. He doesn’t. When asking the public about Obamacare, word choice matters, and "defund" leads to a different result than "repeal." While the law isn’t popular, a recent Kaiser poll found 57 percent opposed cutting off funding. On his second point, he’s right that most people tell pollsters they don’t want a government shutdown. But we’ll point out that both sides in the budget battle in Congress say they don’t want a shutdown. We rated his statement Mostly False.

2. Under Obamacare, people who "have a doctor they’ve been seeing for the last 15 or 20 years, they won’t be able to keep going to that doctor." Mostly False.

July 31, 2013 in a Fox News interview

Some have suggested that Obamacare would interfere with doctor-patient relationships. Actually, there’s no more interference than what existed before Obamacare. Right now, patients can lose access to their doctors when their insurance policies change. This typically happens when employers switch plans or when workers switch (or lose) jobs. Under Obamacare, some patients who buy health insurance through the marketplace could lose access to their current doctor, but it’s difficult to predict how many. And it would be because they have a new insurance plan. We rated that claim Mostly False.

3. "Even the employees’ union for the IRS -- the very people in charge of enforcing this law -- are begging to be let out from under this law." Mostly False.

July 31, 2013 in a Fox News interview

The National Treasury Employees Union has asked its members to oppose efforts to force its members into the exchanges created by Obama’s health care law. But Rubio ignored a lot of context that would give a listener a different impression. The union’s quarrel is not with Obamacare itself, but rather with efforts by the law’s opponents to uproot federal employees from their longstanding health plans, a change the union views as punitive. By contrast, Obamacare was written to keep as many Americans as possible on their existing insurance plans, with the exchanges envisioned as a way for people without insurance or with inadequate insurance to purchase a plan. We rated the statement Mostly False.

4. Under Obamacare, "75 percent of small businesses now say they are going to be forced to either fire workers or cut their hours." Pants on Fire.

July 25, 2013 in a FoxNews.com op-ed

Suggestions that business are laying off workers because of the health care law have so far proven to be largely unfounded. Most small businesses -- those with fewer than 50 employees -- do not have to provide health insurance to their employees. (In fact, some very small businesses with fewer than 25 employees may qualify for tax credits under the law.) The claim here that 75 percent of small business were reducing their workforce was based on a misreading of a study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The study actually found that less than 10 percent of small businesses said they will be forced to reduce their workforce or cut hours. We rated that claim Pants on Fire.

5. "Obamacare is bad policy that adds around $800 billion of taxes on the American people. It does not discriminate between rich and poor. It hurts everyone." False.

July 8, 2012, in an Orlando Sentinel op-ed

Rubio cherry-picks the highest number he can find — $800 billion in new taxes — to garner opposition to the recently upheld health care law. He doesn’t tell readers that these "taxes" would be garnered over 10 years or take into account that the law includes tax breaks and subsidies for health insurance. The law taxes wealthier Americans to a greater degree to provide more services for the poor. We rated that claim False.

September 27, 2013

Campaign for $830 million Jackson hospital bond plans $2,500-a-head fundraiser

@PatriciaMazzei

Bigwigs from Miami's business elite will host a posh fundraising reception next month for the campaign for $830 million in public bonds for the Jackson Health System.

The Oct. 9 reception, at the Star Island home of CEO Stuart Miller, suggests a contribution of $2,500 per person to benefit Citizens for a Healthy Miami-Dade. That's the political arm of Jackson's Nov. 5 ballot initiative.

Carlos Migoya, Jackson's chief executive, will be the featured guest at the shindig.

"This will be the only fundraising event that our campaign, Citizens for a Healthy Miami-Dade, will be holding with Carlos Migoya," fundraiser Brian Goldmeier wrote in an email sent with the reception invitation.

The deep-pocketed list of reception hosts includes real-estate movers and shakers, lawyers, physicians and business executives.

Jackson's political campaign officially kicked off last week, though fundraising began over the summer. Migoya has said the committee has already raised more than $1 million -- usually considered the minimum for a countywide campaign in Miami-Dade -- though finance reports won't be submitted until next month.

Council on Economic Education, bankers advocate for "money course"

Should students statewide be required to take a semester-long course in financial literacy?

The Florida Bankers Association, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Florida Council on Economic Education think so -- and they hope state lawmakers will agree.

The groups held a press conference Friday to build support for a so-called "money course."

"Our economy depends on the ability of young Floridians to responsibly manage and grow their money into adulthood," said Mike Bell, of the Florida Council on Economic Education. "Requiring the money course to be taught as a half-credit course in high school will keep Florida competitive and grow our economy."

Earlier this year, Florida lawmakers passed legislation requiring public high schools to teach financial literacy principles in their economics courses. The bill, SB 1076, also required state education officials to consider creating a separate, one-half credit course dedicated entirely to the topic.

Experts, including state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg, got together to discuss the idea in August. The state Department of Education is currently drafting recommendations.

The Florida Council on Economic Education says a "money course" is the clear way to go.

The council found that students in states with required financial literacy courses were more likely to save money and pay off their credit cards.

What's more, said Bell, the "money course" would be economical.

"There is a ready availability of partners, resources and trainings so that a course in financial literacy, the money course, can be implemented at little to no cost to local school districts," he said.

Rick Scott not ready to push Marco Rubio to back House flood-insurance rate fix

@MarcACaputo

Gov. Rick Scott doesn’t sound ready to ask U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to change his position and back a U.S. House flood-insurance measure to temporarily halt hefty rate increases starting Oct. 1

Scott referenced the House measure in a letter last week to Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson, who then proposed legislation to delay rate increases for a year. But Rubio didn’t go that far in a Thursday response, where he expressed his concerns, but faulted the House proposal.

When asked Friday about Rubio’s response, Scott said “my concern is for our economy, our families and our state.” He mentioned the issue was discussed this week at the Florida Cabinet meeting with St Petersburg’s mayor, Bill Foster.

Continue reading "Rick Scott not ready to push Marco Rubio to back House flood-insurance rate fix" »

UF Online, a Weatherford priority, gets the OK

@tbtia

University of Florida's online institute, a priority of House Speaker Will Weatherford, will launch in January now that the state governing board has signed off. The center, called UF Online, will begin by offering seven bachelor's degree programs, all of them fully via the Web.

Read more on The Gradebook.

Former North Miami Beach lawmaker dies

@CTeproff @NadegeGreen

John Patrick Julien, a former North Miami Beach council member and one-term state house representative, was an independent thinker and fiscal conservative. A registered Democrat, critics often accused him of being a Republican at heart.

He died Friday from cancer. He was 50.

Julien, who was first elected to the North Miami Beach council in 2005 and served in the House of Representatives from 2010-2012, was in hospice care in Hollywood with his family and friends by his side when he died.

“He fought a hell of a battle,” said his best friend, former North Miami Beach council member Robert Taylor.

Julien started having stomach pains and by early September it was unbearable, said Taylor. He spent Labor Day weekend in the hospital and doctors found he had tumors in his stomach and liver.

As a North Miami Beach councilman, Julien wasn’t afraid to shoot down ideas he thought didn’t make fiscal sense, even if it meant sounding like a Grinch.

More from Carli Teproff and Nadege Green here.

In Miami, leftover elections cash helps cops

@ChuckRabin

In a light moment during last week’s budget hearing, Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez conceded dropping out of the mayor’s race ultimately helped the city — financially.

As commissioners scrambled to find money to help restore lost police benefits, an unexpected $500,000 windfall appeared: cash set aside for a November mayoral runoff.

When Fraternal Order of Police President Javier Ortiz identified the money, Suarez weighed in, almost whispering.

“I get half the credit for that,” he said.

“You know what, I do thank you for getting out of the race,” Ortiz replied.

Suarez’s comment drew chuckles at City Hall.

It also put a grin on the face of Mayor Tomás Regalado, the beneficiary of Suarez’s exit from the race last month.

--CHARLES RABIN

Lawyers urge Sen. Marco Rubio to green-light South Florida federal judgeship

@jayhweaver

Hundreds of lawyers offended by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s blocking of Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William L. Thomas’ nomination to the South Florida federal bench have signed a petition urging the conservative Republican to allow the first openly gay black nominee to be confirmed by the Senate.

Rubio, who along with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson recommended Thomas to President Barack Obama almost a year ago, now says the jurist is not qualified because of his mishandling of a couple of DUI and murder cases.

But the signers of the petition, led by Miami attorney David Tucker, say Rubio has unfairly distorted Thomas’ record as soft to pander to the Tea Party and other GOP right-wingers.

“Judge Thomas would be a tremendous asset to the bench and community,” the petition reads. “He brings years of legal and judicial experience to the court. The time to act is now and therefore we request that Senator Rubio put politics aside and immediately issue a ‘blue slip’ allowing for Judge Thomas’ nomination process to move forward.”

Rubio’s hold on the so-called blue slip is the only barrier to Thomas’ Senate confirmation hearing.

Several media outlets, including the Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times and Huffington Post, have opined that Rubio’s flip-flop on Thomas — rated “majority well qualified” by the American Bar Association — is motivated only by partisan politics because he was skewered by conservatives for backing immigration reform.

But Rubio is not budging.

--JAY WEAVER