November 18, 2015

HHS secretary visits Miami to promote Obamacare

via @dchangmiami

With more than a million Floridians signed up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchange — and nearly as many still uninsured but eligible for some type of plan in 2015 — Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell visited Miami on Wednesday to make a hard sell for people to enroll.

She toured an enrollment center at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus downtown, met privately with South Florida healthcare leaders and held a press conference where she introduced a Miami small business owner who pays $75 a month for coverage through the exchange.

Burwell also repeated slogans about the “affordability” of health plans sold on the exchange and trumpeted the “simplicity and ease” of enrollment with new user-friendly features, such as an “out-of-pocket cost estimator” tool that debuted this year on to help consumers estimate their plan deductibles, co-payments and other expenses.

About 1 million people nationwide — about one third of whom are new consumers — have selected a plan during the first two weeks of open enrollment, which began Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 31, though people have to pick a plan by Dec. 15 to have coverage beginning on Jan. 1.

More here.

October 13, 2015

Jeb Bush to outline plan to replace Obamacare

via @learyreports

On Tuesday in New Hampshire, Jeb Bush will outline a plan to replace Obamacare.

Background from his campaign:

I. Promote innovation in health care

Health care costs grow faster than any other sector of the economy and innovation lags. Why? Washington over-regulation in health care creates high barriers to entry, adds excessive costs, fosters excessive complexity and impedes innovation. Governor Bush will:

• Modernize the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory morass and increase funding and accountability at the National Institutes of Health

• Promote private sector leadership of health information technology adoption and enable better access to patient de-identified Medicare and Medicaid claims data

• Establish a comprehensive review of regulatory barriers to health innovation

Continue reading "Jeb Bush to outline plan to replace Obamacare" »

September 11, 2015

Kathy Castor asks feds to intervene in Florida's failure to cover poor and disabled kids

via @Marbinius

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor is asking federal health administrators to investigate Florida’s “outrageous and miserable history” of denying adequate healthcare to impoverished and disabled children, saying the state has deliberately ignored a judge’s ruling that Florida’s insurer for the needy is systematically violating federal law.

In a letter Thursday, Castor called upon Sylvia Burwell, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to “exercise [her] oversight and enforcement authority to ensure Florida children receive the care required under the law.”

By sending the missive, Castor, a Tampa Democrat, is wading into a dispute between state health administrators and doctors for impoverished children that simmered for a decade before reaching a boiling point last year. On the last day of December 2014, U.S. Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan declared Florida's healthcare system for needy and disabled children to be in violation of several federal laws. Jordan’s ruling was a milestone in a lawsuit by pediatricians and several families that had been filed 10 years earlier.

Florida’s spending for the healthcare of children in Medicaid, the state’s insurer for the needy, is so inadequate, Jordan wrote in a 153-page ruling, that most pediatricians and specialists have been driven from the program. As a consequence, the judge wrote, poor and disabled children often endure long waits for an appointment, or travel hours to a population center to see a doctor.

More here.

August 27, 2015

Florida regulator says Obamacare premiums will rise 9.5% in 2016

via @dchangmiami

Health insurance premiums for Floridians who buy their own plans will rise 9.5 percent on average for 2016, though some consumers will pay less for their coverage than they did this year, state insurance regulators reported Wednesday.

A total of 19 health insurance companies submitted rate filings to Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation, which this year regained the authority to deny rate increases for health plans sold on the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchange at

Average rate changes for 2016 plans sold on the ACA exchange will range from a decrease of nearly 10 percent for some plans, to an increase of as much as 16 percent for others.

Rate increases could have been higher, though, if not for the return of prior-approval authority for the Office of Insurance Regulation this year. A 2013 state law barred the state agency from regulating rates for ACA exchange plans, but that prohibition expired in March.

As a result, Florida regulators denied proposed rate increases for more than half of the issuers in the state for 2016. The majority of health plans received approval for single-digit increases, and four will decrease their rates from 2015.

More here.

August 24, 2015

Florida lawmakers featured in anti-Medicaid expansion ads

Several Tampa Bay area legislators are among those featured prominently in a new TV and digital ad by Americans for Prosperity, "thanking" them for blocking Medicaid expansion during the 2015 session.

AFP, a conservative advocacy group backed by the Koch brothers, says in a release that "the two-week long TV effort will feature TV, digital and mail to educate Floridians about the 72 legislators who stood up for taxpayers and patients against special interests who pushed to bring Obama’s Medicaid expansion to the Sunshine State."

AFP says five different versions of its 30-second ads are airing across Florida, including the one below.

July 09, 2015

Report: Health care costs remain shrouded in mystery in Florida -- and most states

via @dchangmiami

Consumers with health insurance shouldered more of the expense for their medical care in 2014, but Florida and nearly every other state did little to require that prices for hospitals and doctors be made public — hindering comparison shopping and allowing dominant hospital systems and insurers to drive up costs overall, according to a report released Wednesday.

Florida was among 45 states that received a failing grade for neglecting to adopt laws that give patients the data they need to plan for their healthcare expenses, according to the report produced by two nonprofit groups, Catalyst for Payment Reform in California and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute in Connecticut.

The report looked only at state actions regarding healthcare price transparency, and not at the increasing number of health insurance companies that offer their members online tools to estimate out-of-pocket costs for medical care, such as Cigna and UnitedHealthcare.

Free websites, such as Healthcare Bluebook and Fair Health, also offer some price information. But in many cases, data are limited or are restricted to members of specific health plans.

State legislative efforts, however, could help to create a uniform experience for all consumers, whether they have insurance or not, said Suzanne Delbanco, executive director of Catalyst for Payment Reform.

More here.

June 26, 2015

Burwell decision secures subsidies, but feud continues in Florida over health care

Gov. Rick Scott and the legislative opponents to the Affordable Care Act dodged a bullet Thursday when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal health insurance subsidies, but it did little to narrow the divide between Republicans over how to handle Florida’s uninsured.

The ruling reduces the pressure on state leaders to create a state exchange to cover the 1.3 million low- and middle-income Floridians who now rely on the federal program for health insurance. But it leaves unanswered the question of how Florida will handle the loss of $400 million federal Low Income Pool money used to reimburse hospitals and health care providers who provide charity care to the uninsured.

After a bitter and divisive legislative session that led to a special budget session ending last week, lawmakers must return in January to craft a new budget for 2016-17 that addresses the loss of the LIP funds. The federal government confirmed this week that it would limit Florida’s LIP money to $1 billion to help cover the cost of the uninsured not covered under Obamacare, for the 2015-16 budget year. But it also said the state’s LIP money would be limited to only $600 million in 2016-17.

That has prompted Republicans in the Florida Senate to renew calls for the state to create an alternative, privately run plan to draw down federal money to cover an estimated 800,000 uninsured Floridians. Florida was among the 34 states that allowed the federal government to run the insurance marketplace, known as exchanges, that allow eligible Floridians to shop for individual health plans.

But thousands of low-income adults who would be eligible for Medicaid under expansion remain in the “coverage gap.”

Scott and the Republican leaders in the House opposed the Senate’s efforts to create the plan this year. They argued it would prop up a “broken” Medicaid system, expand the federal deficit and hurt taxpayers.

The issue deeply divided the two chambers, as Scott and House leaders accused several senators, including Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, who works for an Orlando hospital, of using his office to advocate for his industry.

On Thursday, comment from both sides indicated the feuding is likely to continue.

More here.

June 25, 2015

Scott and Bondi react to Burwell ruling: Obamacare is still a bad law

Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi did not have much to say about the U.S. Supreme Court ruling today upholding the Affordable Care Act subsidies to states that rely on the federal exchange but instead steered their focus to the continued opposition to the underlying law. 

 "The Affordable Care Act continues to be the most heavy handed federal health care law in our nation’s history, and today’s decision in the King v. Burwell case does nothing to alleviate the harms the law will continue to cause,'' Bondi said in a statement.

Asked to comment at a veterans event in St. Augustine Scott responded, "It's a bad law. It was supposed to reduce health care costs and health care costs have gone up,'' he said, according to his spokeswoman Geri Bustamante.

He also noted that state-run exchanges "are collapsing across the country because it’s costing more than people thought." He continues to hope for the law's repeal, she said. 

Gov. Rick Scott's stalled promise about fighting for Obamacare repeal

Gov. Rick Scott's promise to fight to repeal the federal health care law was dealt another blow June 25 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to uphold subsidies for consumers who purchase insurance in the federal exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act.

That means that millions of Americans, including 1.3 million in Florida, can keep their subsidies to help them afford insurance. Since Scott and the state Legislature did not want to establish its own insurance exchange under the law, the state is one of 34 that relies on the federally-run marketplace at

Scott, a former health care company executive, began his fight against the Affordable Care Act before he was a candidate in Florida.

In 2009, Scott spent $5 million of his own money to form Conservatives for Patients' Rights, a group that fought Obama's original health care proposal.

In 2010, Scott said he would join efforts to repeal the health care law, including supporting a constitutional amendment that "prohibits the federal government from imposing President Obama's individual mandate, to protect Floridians' freedom to control their health care choices."

At PolitiFact Florida we have been tracking dozens of Scott's promises, including his one to fight the Affordable Care Act, since he won his first campaign in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014. And we have fact-checked many claims by Scott related to the Affordable Care Act.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the rest of our promise update.

As the Supreme Court rules on Obamacare, a look at PolitiFact's most fact-checked topic of health care

In a highly anticipated ruling on the health care law, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that critical subsidies for health insurance are allowed under the Affordable Care Act.

The ruling in King vs. Burwell means that millions of Americans will continue to have access to subsidized health insurance on federal insurance exchanges like

The 6-3 decision included affirmative votes from Chief Justice John Roberts, as well as Justice Anthony Kennedy, who often wields the court’s key swing vote.

PolitiFact has been fact-checking health care since 2007, from ideas on the campaign trail, to the drafting of legislation in 2009, to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. We have published just over 1,300 fact-checks on health care, our most fact-checked topic.

Browse all of our fact-checks on health care, including our 2013 report, 16 myths about health care, and our PolitiFact Sheet that previewed the King vs. Burwell ruling.

In Florida, we have fact-checked many claims by Gov. Rick Scott related to the Affordable Care Act.

We have also fact-checked health care claims by Gov. Jeb Bush, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Attorney General Pam Bondi, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz here and here.

--with Angie Drobnic Holan