October 13, 2017

Miami Republican attacks Trump’s decision to end Obamacare payments

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

@alextdaugherty 

Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen sharply criticized President Donald Trump’s decision to end cost-sharing reduction payments intended to help low-income Americans afford health insurance.

Ros-Lehtinen, a frequent critic of Trump who is retiring in 2018, said late Thursday night on Twitter that “cutting health care subsidies will mean more uninsured in my district.”

“POTUS promised more access, affordable coverage,” Ros-Lehtinen tweeted. “This does opposite.”

The Trump administration said Thursday night that it will stop making payments to health insurers that participate in Obamacare. Trump continued to make the subsidy payments through the summer as he publicly pressured Congress to repeal the 2010 law.
 
“The bailout of insurance companies through these unlawful payments is yet another example of how the previous administration abused taxpayer dollars and skirted the law to prop up a broken system,” the White House said in a statement. “Congress needs to repeal and replace the disastrous Obamacare law and provide real relief to the American people.”

Ros-Lehtinen’s Miami-based district has 96,300 people enrolled in Obamacare, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the highest number of enrollments of any congressional district in the country.

Another Miami Republican, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, tweeted on Friday morning that Congress should continue funding the subsides through the federal funding process.

“Cost sharing reductions are critical to low income Americans,” Curbelo tweeted. “Congress should guarantee their funding through the appropriations process.”

Curbelo’s district has 92,500 people enrolled in Obamacare.

Read more here.

September 20, 2017

Rubio appears likely to support last-ditch Obamacare repeal effort

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@alextdaugherty 

Marco Rubio indicated tentative support for the latest attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare in the Senate, eight weeks after the Republican-controlled Senate failed to act on the party’s signature campaign promise.

Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., are the architects of a bill that replaces the Affordable Care Act with a system of block grants doled out to state governments. They introduced the bill in July as the Senate debated a separate Obamacare repeal measure, but their plan has gained momentum in recent days.

“I’ve got to see some of the details on how it impacts Florida, but by and large returning power to the states is something I’ve long believed in,” Rubio said to reporters on Tuesday. “I don’t think you can design a one-size-fits-all system on virtually anything for a country this size.”

 

The Graham-Cassidy plan is not expected to garner any Democratic support and Rubio, a Republican who has opposed Obamacare since entering the Senate in 2011, has voted in favor of past efforts to repeal Obamacare.

Republicans have just 10 days to pass the Graham-Cassidy proposal with a simple majority of 50 senators in support plus Vice President Mike Pence’s vote. After Sept. 30, Senate rules will require 60 votes to pass the proposal, which means it won’t pass because Republicans only control 52 seats. 

President Donald Trump and Pence are supportive. Pence was on Capitol Hill Tuesday to woo Republicans on Graham-Cassidy.

 

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson announced in July that he was working with Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine on a bipartisan health care proposal, and Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander was working with Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray on a health care plan. But the latest effort by Graham and Cassidy has stalled any talks between Democrats and Republicans.

Rubio has said for weeks that bipartisan talks on health care are a waste of time, and he reiterated that stance on Tuesday.

“There’s no realistic chance of a bipartisan solution,” Rubio said. “Ideally you’d be able to fix this in a bipartisan way but there’s a massive difference of opinion on the federal government’s role on health care.”

Read more here.

July 31, 2017

Carlos Curbelo wanted to repeal Obamacare. Now he wants to work with Democrats.

Carlos Curbelo 3

@alextdaugherty

Last week, Carlos Curbelo ventured across the Capitol to see his hero, Arizona Sen. John McCain, speak about the need for compromise in Congress.

The moderate from Miami listened intently as the maverick from Arizona. who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, chided colleagues from both parties on the Senate floor about the dangers of naked partisanship.

“Just had the special privilege of being in the Senate Chamber to welcome John McCain back to D.C.,” Curbelo tweeted. “He's a national hero & one of my heroes.”

But less than 72 hours later, McCain cast the crucial vote against a narrowly tailored Obamacare repeal bill — a vote that will likely give headaches to moderate House Republicans like Curbelo ahead of the 2018 elections.

Curbelo and others like him took a politically tough House vote in May to replace Obamacare. But that bill is now dead. The political ads are yet to come.

In the wake of the legislative failure, Curbelo, whose Miami-to-Key West district is the most Democratic-leaning in the country currently held by a Republican, is now talking bipartisanship.

“It's critical to our democracy for Members of Congress to put politics aside and come together to find solutions to the issues affecting our constituents,” Curbelo, who declined an interview request, said in a statement. “Our healthcare system needs reform and I've been committed to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find market-based solutions that would result in increased coverage and lower costs.”

Curbelo is part of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 43 House Republicans and Democrats who released a bipartisan health care plan on Monday.

Among other things, the plan calls for creating a stability fund that states can use to reduce health insurance premiums, requiring that businesses with more than 500 employees provide health insurance — instead of the current 50 employees — repealing the medical device tax and providing guidelines for states that want flexibility in the existing exchanges.

But hours before McCain’s vote, Curbelo said he was ready to proceed with the repeal of Obamacare if the Senate passed it.

Most Republican senators did not support the so-called “skinny repeal.” They viewed it as a way to start negotiations between House and Senate leaders to come up with a better plan.

Curbelo was unconvinced that any more negotiations among Republicans would work, and was ready to vote for a scaled-down repeal of Obamacare that pleased few within the GOP.

Though Curbelo doesn’t have any legislative victories to show for his Obamacare vote, the Republican Party is ready to support a potentially vulnerable incumbent who voted in favor of one of the party’s biggest priorities.

“For Curbelo’s part, he has always been consistent in his messaging for healthcare,” said National Republican Campaign Committee spokeswoman Maddie Anderson. “His vote in the House was a way to keep the debate and the conversation going forward. He was aware that he thought it needed work.”

Obamacare figures to be a huge campaign issue in 2018 for Curbelo and whoever challenges him for his seat, as 92,500 people in his district are enrolled in Obamacare, the second-highest figure for any congressional district in the country, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Read more here.

July 25, 2017

Marco Rubio votes to proceed with debate on Obamacare repeal

Marco Rubio

@alextdaugherty 

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio joined 49 Republicans to vote in favor of proceeding with Senate debate on an Obamacare repeal bill, a critical step in the effort by Republicans to repeal Obamacare.

Rubio had been expected to vote in favor. He announced on July 13 that his concerns with the repeal process had been addressed by Senate leadership.

“The sooner we get to the floor and start the debate on the floor in front of the American people, the better off it’s going to be for everyone,” Rubio said on July 13.

Two moderate Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted against proceeding with debate, meaning Rubio’s vote was essential in passing the measure. Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie in favor of proceeding with debate on repeal.

The 51-50 vote means that the Senate will now begin debate on a proposal to repeal Obamacare, although it is not clear what specific bill the Republicans decide to move forward on. It is expected that a bill that repeals Obamacare without a replacement and a bill that keeps portions of Obamacare will be debated, but if the various proposals increase the federal deficit after 10 years, a process typically determined by the Congressional Budget Office, at least 60 senators must vote in favor.

But the Senate can pass a bill with a simple majority instead of 60 votes if the Senate cobbles together a plan with elements that do not increase the deficit after 10 years, something dubbed a “skinny repeal” plan. Republicans only have 52 Senate seats compared to Democrats’ 48, so a bill that requires 60 votes would fail.

Rubio said two weeks ago that he wanted to ensure more Medicaid payments to Florida hospitals that serve a large number of low-income people, an option to choose catastrophic coverage plans with low monthly payments but high deductibles, and flexible Medicaid caps for public-health emergencies like Zika.

After a closed-door meeting with Republican leadership on July 13 Rubio emerged to say he would vote in favor of debate on a repeal bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ended months of behind-the-scenes negotiations and deal-making efforts by putting the motion on the floor Tuesday, forcing Republican senators like Rubio to either vote in favor of debating a repeal package or turn their backs on a long-running campaign promise for many Republicans.

Rubio has repeatedly said that he was elected in 2010 and reelected in 2016 on a platform of repealing Obamacare, and that he intends to follow through on his campaign promise.

Read more here. 

July 14, 2017

Bill Nelson on Obamacare repeal: It's on the ropes, 'the message has gotten through'

Bill Nelson 71417U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson was approaching the dugout at Tropicana Field to throw out the first pitch at the Tampa Bay Rays game against the Red Sox on July 7, when a woman shouted his name.

"She came down the aisle to tell me: Please don't let them take my health care away," Nelson recalled. "I hear that all the time. People come up to me on the airplane, street corners, public buildings, ballgames -- where ever I am. Some people have told me 'I would be dead without my healthcare.'''

Because of that, Nelson said, he predicts that the revised Senate healthcare bill, which was released on Thursday, is all but dead and repeal of Obamacare is on the ropes.

"I think the message has gotten through,'' Nelson said Friday after a series of constituent meetings at his Tallahassee office. "I think it's going to be hard for them."

Even Gov. Rick Scott, a long-time advocate of repealing Obamacare, said in an op-ed released Friday that smaller changes should be on the table even though he still says "Obamacare must be repealed immediately." 

"D.C. politicians have focused only on the grand bargain of repealing and replacing Obamacare, ignoring the opportunity to make incremental changes to get rid of the taxes and mandates and roll back the federal welfare state,'' Scott wrote. 

Nelson believes that Florida has put itself in a bind by refusing to expand Medicaid to 138 percent of poverty, which he says is about $45,000 for a family of four.

"Now the states like Florida are saying we want you to make us equal with all 31 states that have expanded Medicaid, including states that have Republican governors,'' he said. "This is not only the irony but the travesty of the situation."

Under Obamacare, Florida could have drawn $5 billion a year in federal funds and would have had to match a maximum of $500 million a year to cover an estimated 800,000 uninsured, he said.

Instead, Florida has persuaded the Trump administration to expand the Low Income Pool program and reimburse hospitals and health care about $1 billion over the next two years  to compensate for the care for the uninsured. But to get that money, local governments must pay a 40 percent match for 60 percent of the federal funds.

"So the people of Florida are going to pay $400 million to get $600 million when in fact, if they had expanded Medicaid, they would have paid a maximum of $500 million to get $5 billion," he said.

"They are paying more for it out of the pockets of the taxpayers of Florida and now when the health care bill revision is up, they say they want extra compensation so that the state's that expanded Medicaid don't get ahead of us. It's backwards."

July 13, 2017

Rubio will vote yes on motion to proceed with Obamacare repeal bill

Colombia rubio(2) (1)

@alextdaugherty 

Sen. Marco Rubio will vote yes on a motion to proceed with the second draft of the Senate's Obamacare repeal bill. 

The bill, released on Thursday, was satisfactory to Rubio after he tweeted three provisions as conditions for his support on Wednesday night.

The provisions included more Medicaid payments to hospitals that serve a large number of low-income people, an option to choose catastrophic coverage plans with low monthly payments but high deductibles and flexible Medicaid caps for public health emergencies like Zika.

Rubio said that despite his support on the motion to proceed with the bill, he will introduce an amendment that ensures Florida, which chose not to expand Medicaid, isn't locked into a baseline "that puts us at a disadvantageous position." 

"It depends what the final bill looks like, if Florida's not treated fairly it'll be a problem," Rubio said. "But ultimately, I campaigned to repeal and replace Obamacare and that's what I want to but I want to do it in a way that's positive for the country and fair for Florida." 

Even though Rubio is in favor of proceeding with the bill, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican and conservative Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul both said Thursday they are not in favor of proceeding with the bill. A number of other Republican senators said they are undecided. 

"We have at least 51 insurance markets in the country, we don't have one, so everybody's approaching it from the perspective of their own state," Rubio said.  

The bill can still be changed if the motion to proceed passes with additional amendments. 

July 06, 2017

Health care protest at Marco Rubio's Doral office set for this afternoon

Colombia rubio(2)

@alextdaugherty 

Sen. Marco Rubio is facing heat throughout Florida over a Senate proposal to repeal Obamacare. 

A slew of liberal groups are organizing protests at Rubio offices across the state, including his South Florida office in Doral. The protest begins at 2pm Thursday.

"Republicans are trying to pass their terrible health care bill, which is estimated to cost twenty-two MILLION Americans their health insurance," the protest's Facebook page reads. "Let's show Office of US Senator Marco Rubio that the constituents of Florida know health care is a fundamental human RIGHT, not a privilege." 

The groups involved in today's protest includes the Bernie Sanders-linked Our Revolution, #AllofUs, Democracy Spring, Democratic Socialists of America, The People's Consortium, Progressive Democrats of America, ResistHere.org, Ultraviolet, and Working Families Party. Protests are also planned for Palm Beach Gardens, Tallahassee and Jacksonville. 

"We’re frustrated with the health care bill," said Kira Willig, a leader with the Our Revolution affiliated People's Progressive Caucus of Miami-Dade. "It’s not a health care bill it’s a tax bill." 

Willig said she's expecting arrests at this afternoon's protest.

Rubio is noncommittal over the current proposal in the Senate that's been panned by both moderates and conservatives, although he is committed to repealing Obamacare. 

“I ran for election and reelection as an opponent of Obamacare,” Rubio said last week. “I don’t think I’ve ever misled people about my views on it. I’m in favor of repealing it, we’re just debating how to do it.”

Rubio won't be at any of his offices this afternoon. He's scheduled to meet Vice President Mike Pence at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral along with Sen. Bill Nelson

June 27, 2017

Rubio and Scott crisscross the Capitol as Obamacare repeal bill stalls in Senate

Marco Rubio 2

@alextdaugherty

Minutes after he delayed a vote on a bill to repeal Obamacare when a number of Republican senators said they could not support it as written, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell retreated to his office.

Rick Scott and Marco Rubio were waiting for him.

The pair met with McConnell for half an hour, and after the meeting Rubio said the vote delay was “helpful to us.” 

“I’m going to view this entirely through the lens of what this means for Florida,” Rubio said. “The one unique advantage that we have being from Florida is that we have done what this law is going to... encourage other states to do.”

Rubio and Scott never publicly opposed the bill, which stalled after a number of senators told McConnell said they could not vote for the legislation in its current shape. But their tepid response, with Rubio summoning health care staffers from Tallahassee to review the bill and Scott declining to say he would vote for it if he could, is evidence of the work Senate leaders need to do to get a bill passed.

“Look, legislation of this complexity almost always takes longer than anybody else would hope,” McConnell said. “But we are going to press on. We think the status quo is unsustainable for all the obvious reasons we have discussed over and over and over again. And we are optimistic we are going to get to a result that’s better than the status quo.”

Scott, an ally of President Donald Trump and former health care executive, packed his day in the capital with meetings and television appearances, with the goal of stressing to Republican senators that the bill to repeal Obamacare must not penalize states like Florida that chose not to expand Medicaid.

“We're not treated the same way as a state like New York,” Scott said, arguing that New York gets $23 billion in federal dollars for health insurance while Florida gets $14 billion, despite Florida having more people to cover than New York.

“Our federal tax rates aren’t lower, so why should we get paid less?”

But Florida gets paid less because it declined to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. The state left as much as $66 billion in federal dollars on the table over 10 years after it decided not to expand Medicaid. Scott countered that expanding Medicaid would cost Florida $1.9 billion a year, but the actual cost to the state would have been closer to $500 million and wouldn’t kick in for a few years.


Read more here.

June 23, 2017

Gov. Scott plans D.C. trip as U.S. Senate debates Obamacare repeal

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@ByKristenMClark

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday that he will travel to Washington, D.C. next week so he can provide input as the U.S. Senate debates its proposal to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a new plan.

No details were released as to when Scott would travel to the nation's capital or whom he will meet with there.

"I have been carefully reviewing the bill and next week, I will be traveling to Washington to meet with congressional leaders to provide input on how we can make the bill better for Floridians," Scott said in a statement.

Scott is widely expected to run for U.S. Senate in 2018 against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson.

Scott called Obamacare a "terrible, expensive mess" and offered some general insight into what he would want to see out of Congress' replacement plan.

“All states must be treated equitably. Florida taxpayers deserve the same treatment as every other state under the Medicaid program," Scott said. He added: "Every American, including those with pre-existing conditions, should have the ability to buy any kind of insurance they want. This will drive down costs and give people the flexibility and power to determine what they want to buy."

Photo credit: AP

June 22, 2017

Gillum wants state law so women can maintain no-cost birth control if Obamacare is repealed

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@ByKristenMClark

Criticizing President Donald Trump's administration for wanting to "turn back the clock and take essential healthcare away from women" by rolling back parts of Obamacare, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on Thursday will propose protecting women's access to free birth control through a new state law instead.

“As governor, I'm going to stand with women and ensure that neither the government nor their employer stand between a woman and her doctor in making the critical health decisions that affect her life. This is an essential part of providing better quality care and economic security and stability to more Floridians," Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, said in a statement provided to the Herald/Times.

Enacting such a measure would require earning support from Florida's Republican-led Legislature, which would prove challenging -- particularly in the more conservative-minded House.

The proposal is an addition to a health care platform Gillum first unveiled last month in Tallahassee. At the time, he called for state protections to prohibit health insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, charging higher premiums for those conditions and charging higher premiums for women than men.

Such safeguards, along with the no-cost birth control coverage, are currently protected under the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare -- which congressional Republicans are seeking to dismantle and replace with their own plan. (The U.S. House has already passed its version; Senate Republicans are crafting theirs behind closed doors, which has drawn criticism and protests from Democrats.)

RELATED from PolitiFact: "7 questions about the Senate health care bill and transparency"

Meanwhile, three weeks ago, various national media reported that White House officials had drafted a rule to rollback the requirement under Obamacare that forces religious employers to cover birth control in health care plans -- which sparked Gillum to add the issue to his health care policy platform.

Two female doctors from Miami praised Gillum's idea in a statement provided by his campaign.

"Access to contraception is such an important part of a woman's health," said Dr. Annette Pelaez, an obstetrician who works at Miami MDs For Women. "This common-sense proposal would ensure that women in Florida can continue making responsible health decisions motivated by wellness, instead of by cost or coverage."

"There is no doubt that the women our practice sees would be harmed by Trump's proposal to reduce access to contraception," agreed Dr. Roselyn Bonilla, a gynecologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami. "That makes Gillum's proposal all the more important. As a physician, I'm glad that someone is willing to put the medical rights of women first, above politics."

Gillum is among at least three Democratic contenders seeking to replace Republican Gov. Rick Scott after next year's election. The other candidates are former Tallahassee U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Orlando businessman Chris King -- although Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando trial attorney John Morgan could also run.

Among Republicans, the only declared candidate so far is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, but he's likely to face a challenge from House Speaker Richard Corcoran, of Land O'Lakes; Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, of Clearwater; and/or U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, of Ponte Vedra Beach.

Photo credit: 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum speaks at a press conference in Tallahassee in May. Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau