April 27, 2017

How South Florida Congressional members are reacting to new GOP Obamacare overhaul



The Republican Party has revived it's effort to overhaul Obamacare that could reach a vote in Congress this week as President Donald Trump approaches his 100th day in office.

The amendment by U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur, a New Jersey Republican, would allow states to apply for waivers to certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act. The House could vote on the measure, which amends the GOP's American Health Care Act, this week. (The AHCA died in March without a vote when competing GOP factions in the House couldn't agree on it.)

Many of the Florida Republicans have been non-committal so far including Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart who represent Miami-Dade. 

Here is a running tally of comments by South Florida members of Congress on the amendment based on interviews with their spokespersons. 


Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: “After studying the revised bill, I intend to vote NO. This plan still does not effectively address the needs of my South Florida constituents.  The proposed changes to this bill would leave too many of my constituents with pre-existing conditions paying more for health insurance coverage and too many of them will even be left without any coverage at all. Additionally, this new plan still includes painful cuts to Medicaid that will make it more difficult to care for patients with high costs of coverage due to special needs or chronic diseases. Unfortunately, the bill does not deliver what my district needs and until a plan that helps South Florida is proposed, I will continue to side with my constituents in opposing this plan.”

Carlos Curbelo: "The Congressman is still in the process of reviewing the legislation and discussing it with House leaders." 

Mario Diaz-Balart: "He is still reviewing the proposal and awaiting bill text to be introduced."


Alcee Hastings: “After its implosion last month, ‘TrumpCare2.0’ still eviscerates essential health benefits, increases premiums, guts Medicare, eliminates protections for those with pre-existing conditions, and unfairly targets seniors with tax increases. This bill is riddled with sweetheart deals to insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry, but does nothing to actually improve healthcare in America. Republicans need to join Democrats in pursuit of actual healthcare reform and stop pandering to the extreme flank of their party."

Ted Deutch: “Republicans are clearly not listening to the American people. Just like the last one, this bill gives the green light to strip away essential health benefits supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans, like maternal care and ER visits. This bill opens the door for discrimination against women, seniors, and people with pre-existing conditions like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and so many other diseases. Is this really how we are making America great again?”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Opposed. In a fundraising email she called "TRUMPCARE 2.0 ... more dangerous than ever."

 - with Alex Leary, Tampa Bay Times

April 06, 2017

Florida voters support Medicaid expansion, survey finds


via @dchangmiami

As the White House and House Republicans continue to discuss plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, a new survey of more than 7,000 registered voters in eight states, including Florida, finds growing public support for the health law’s Medicaid expansion option.

In four states that didn’t expand Medicaid — Florida, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia — more than six in 10 voters said they’d like their states to provide the extra coverage, according to the study conducted by the University of Marylandbetween November and January. Voters in the states that had expanded Medicaid — California, Maryland, New York and Ohio — also said they favored the measure.

In Florida, 67 percent of all voters surveyed favored Medicaid expansion compared to 64 percent nationally.

Keep reading here.

March 10, 2017

Florida elderly and poor would fare worse under GOP's Obamacare replacement

Obamacare f epf

via @dchangmiami

For most of the estimated 1.7 million Floridians enrolled in an Affordable Care Act plan, the House Republican proposal to repeal and replace the health law known as Obamacare will change the financial aid they receive to pay their monthly premiums beginning in 2020.

Both Obamacare and the American Health Care Act unveiled this week by House Republicans include financial aid, in the form of tax credits, to help people buy insurance. But the law and the proposed bill calculate those amounts differently. The ACA tests family income, the local cost of health insurance, and age and smoking status to calculate financial aid. The proposed bill bases tax credits only on age, with a cut off for individuals who earn more than $75,000 a year ($150,000 a year for families).

In Florida, about 1.4 million people or more than 93 percent of those enrolled in an ACA plan for 2016 received financial aid that lowered their monthly premium, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The average monthly tax credit for those Floridians was $305.

But starting in 2020, that number of people who receive a tax credit, and how far that financial aid goes in lowering their monthly premiums, would change under the Republican proposal, according to analysis of the plan by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy think tank.

In general, Floridians who are older, with lower incomes and live in rural areas will fare worse under the AHCA than they did under Obamacare, the Kaiser analysis shows, while those who are younger, with higher incomes and who live in urban areas will be better off.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

An earlier version of this post had an incorrect headline.

February 25, 2017

Rick Scott dined with Donald Trump at the White House


via @learyreports

Florida Gov. Rick Scott had lunch today at the White House with President Donald Trump and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

The White House called it a working lunch "to discuss how best to solve the problems of Obamacare, with a special emphasis on the states’ role in healthcare."

Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio had dinner with Trump.

Scott's official daily schedule originally did not disclose the lunch. The governor's office sent a revised schedule at 5:25 p.m. indicating the meeting with Trump was at 2 p.m.

Scott then also tweeted a photo of himself in the Oval Office with the president, saying it was "great meeting with my friend @realDonaldTrump today on reinventing great health care in our nation!"

-- with Kristen M. Clark contributing

Photo credit: @FLGovScott

January 13, 2017

Where would Obamacare repeal be felt most? Miami

House Republicans Obamacare
via @lesleyclark

WASHINGTON -- Perhaps nowhere in America would so many people be as personally affected by the Republican-led repeal of Obamacare than Miami.

Three congressional districts – all represented by Republicans – have among the highest number of Affordable Care Act enrollees in the country, posing a bit of a wrinkle as those House members prepare to follow their Senate colleagues and vote Friday to begin the process of dismantling the 2010 federal law that has extended health insurance to as many as 20 million Americans.

There are 96,300 people enrolled in the Florida district represented by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, the highest number in the country, according to estimates by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Her district is followed closely by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, whose southwest Miami-Dade and Monroe County district has 92,500 enrolled in the insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act.

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, who opposes rescinding the law, has the third-greatest number at 94,100, followed by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, whose Hialeah to Naples district has 83,300 enrolled.

Ros-Lehtinen acknowledged the incongruity, noting that many in her district are worried about losing what she called the “positive aspects” of President Barack Obama’s signature law, including keeping children on their parents’ insurance through 26 and covering pre-existing conditions.

More here.

Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

October 17, 2016

Country's biggest nursing home pharmacy pays big kickbacks fine



Omnicare, a giant nationwide specialty pharmacy whose South Florida outlet delivers medicines to 150 nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in the region, has agreed to pay a $28 million fine for taking kickbacks for recommending an epilepsy drug to its customers

While the drug Depakote's FDA-approved purpose is to treat seizures, it's off-brand sales have soared with Abbott Laboratories, the medicine's Chicago-based manufacturer, promoting it to control aggression in elderly patients with dementia.

The $28 million settlement, announced Monday by the Justice Department, came almost four years after the government sued Omnicare Inc. for accepting millions of dollars in kickbacks from Abbott Laboratories for promoting the use of Depakote.

"Elderly nursing home residents suffering from dementia are among our nation's most vulnerable patient populations," Deputy Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda said in filing the December 2010 suit. "Kickbacks to consulting pharmacists compromise their independence and undermine their role in protecting nursing home residents from the use of unnecessary drugs."

In a separate lawsuit, Abbot Laboratories in 2012 agreed to pay DOJ a much larger fine, $1.2 billion, for having misbranded Depakota.

Omnicare, purchased least year by CVS Health,  has 160 locations throughout the country, including six in Florida. Its Weston branch serves 150 nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout South Florida.

In an earlier settlement with DOJ, Omnicare agreed in 2012 to pay $50 million to resolve claims that it had improperly dispensed controlled substances.

Photo credit: Scott Eells, Bloomberg







September 29, 2016

President Obama to give health care speech Wednesday in Tampa

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama will deliver a speech on the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday at University of South Florida in Tampa, the White House said.


"Located in Hillsborough County, which has a strong health care system, USF offers a diverse set of training programs for health professions and has led efforts to sign up people for health insurance," the White House said. "Further details about the President's travel to Florida will be made available in the coming days."

It's unclear whether Obama will do another event for Hillary Clinton, though he is expected to hit the road on her behalf in October.

September 21, 2016

Liz Dudek, top health care official, retires after 40 years with state


Liz Dudek, one of the longest-serving agency heads under Gov. Rick Scott, is retiring as secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, the governor's office announced Wednesday.

Dudek, who earns $141,000, is responsible for the agency that manages Medicaid in Florida. Her leave is official Oct. 3.

Deputy Secretary of Medicaid Justin Senior has been appointed interim secretary of the agency.

Dudek, of Tallahassee, has led AHCA since 2011 when Scott took office. But her tenure with the state reaches back more than 40 years.

"Under her leadership, we have worked to make hospitals more transparent and accomplished historic Medicaid reform," Scott said in a statement. "She helped champion quality health services for children in our state and worked hard on our Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding where she fought to protect patients from being price gouged at hospitals."

She previously was bureau chief of health facility compliance and assistant deputy secretary of managed care and health quality for AHCA.

Last year, after lawmakers reached stalemate over expanding Medicaid, Scott named Dudek the co-chairman of the Commission on Health Care and Hospital Funding.

Dudek's agency has been under scrutiny in recent years for its treatment of abortion clinics, and both she and Senior have been at the front lines of major political battles in the Florida Legislature over Medicaid expansion and health care reforms.

Still, even critics of the Scott administration's health care agenda laud Dudek's leadership.

"She was always really professional to work with," said House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, CEO of pro-Medicaid expansion group Florida CHAIN. "There aren't very many people at all that I have tremendous respect for and admiration, but Liz is one of those few people."

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said AHCA is responsible for Medicare in Florida.

December 22, 2015

PAC ad highlights Marco Rubio's efforts to end Obamacare

A Super PAC supporting U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio released a TV ad today that highlights his efforts to end Obamacare.

The Conservative Solutions' ad will run on TV in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The ad states: "For all the Republican talk about dismantling the Affordable Care Act, one Republican presidential hopeful has actually done something…“Marco Rubio conceived and pushed a plan that will all but kill ObamaCare.”

It's not entirely clear from the ad, but it is a reference to Rubio's efforts last year related to something called "risk corridors" in the Affordable Care Act. In December, PolitiFact Florida fact-checked a tweet by Rubio who said "Last year, I stopped an Obamacare bailout and saved taxpayers $2.5 billion."

He was referring to risk corridors, which faced a $2.5 billion shortfall for 2014. Rubio, whose efforts to repeal risk corridors have so far failed, helped persuade Congress last year to prevent Health and Human Services from being able to cover the difference with money from its own budget. But experts said calling the program a bailout is not accurate and that he didn't necessarily save money in the long run. PolitiFact Florida rated his claim Mostly False.  


December 17, 2015

Miami health insurer blames layoffs on risk-corridor limits pushed by Marco Rubio

via @dchangmiami

A Coral Gables-based health insurance company and dozens of its employees are the latest casualties of a Republican-led legislative gambit in 2014 to undermine the Affordable Care Act — a maneuver for which presidential hopeful and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has taken credit on the campaign trail.

Preferred Medical Plan filed notice on Wednesday that the private insurance company intends to lay off 162 employees in February, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

The company will remain in business, said James Card, a spokesman. But Preferred Medical will cover a much smaller number of Floridians — in large part because of a significant reduction in payments that the company expected to receive under the health law.

“Preferred Medical was prohibited from participating on the 2016 [ACA] exchange,” Card said in a written statement.

The reason: the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or CMS could not pay the health insurer what was promised in 2010 under the so-called Risk Corridor program, a risk-sharing arrangement that Rubio calls a taxpayer “bailout” of insurance companies.

Following Wednesday’s release of an appropriations bill that includes a measure to once again restrict payments to insurers in 2016, Rubio issued a press release that read, in part: “ObamaCare’s bailout provision has nothing to do with helping people access health insurance, but it has everything to do with how big businesses in this country game big government to increase their profits, and how big government games big businesses to increase government’s reach into our lives.”

More here.