May 12, 2015

Breaking: Gov. Scott makes case with outdated pop cultural reference

SopranosEvery time Tony Soprano thinks his name won’t be invoked by Gov. Rick Scott as a metaphor for bullying by the federal government on Medicaid expansion, Scott pulls him back in.

On April 17, Scott told reporters in Fort Lauderdale that if the federal government cancelled the Low Income Pool program for hospitals that treat the uninsured to coerce the state to expand Medicaid, it was akin to bullying by the HBO mobster.

On Tuesday, Scott did it again during a visit to Washington D.C.

"This is The Sopranos," Scott said.

The Sopranos? Didn't that show end in 2007? Wouldn’t a Game of Thrones reference be more timely? Or, if the backdrop is Washington, why not something from House of Cards?

With all those DVD boxsets and second runs on AMC, could it be that The Sopranos has had more time to filter into the pop consciousness of the body politic? Perhaps a Sopranos’ reference tests better than a quote from Frank Underwood or an allusion to the cruel fate of Ned Stark?

No doubt Rick Scott’s political committee, Let’s Get to Work, has been busy on its messaging. In April, it spent $751,244. Most of that, about $650,000, was with the Annapolis, Md. political consulting firm OnMessage Inc. While the firm does opinion research, the committee's payments to the firm in April was for a massive TV ad buy. Pollster Tony Fabrizio's firm was paid $23,000, but that wasn't for a poll. There was a poll the committee released last month showing Scott's job approval was between 50-45 percent. The same poll showed that the Affordable Care Act was opposed by 55 percent of respondents.

But Brecht Heuchan, a senior adviser with Let's Get to Work, said the Sopranos' reference was not poll tested or focus grouped.

So why exactly is Scott name checking a fictional mobster from a show that last aired eight years ago?

"I don't know if the governor watches TV," Heuchan said. "I'm not familiar with the show myself. But he feels he's getting strong-armed, and I'm sure that's what he's trying to get at."

As of yet, Scott hasn't compared Florida's standoff with the federal government to an episode of Ally McBeal or L.A. Law, but stay tuned.

Gov. Rick Scott gets promise of a hearing on what he calls 'Sopranos'-like coercion from Obama administration

via @learyreports

Gov. Rick Scott continued his offensive against Medicaid expansion during a visit to Washington D.C. Tuesday, pressing members of the state delegation to make phone calls and write letters, and gaining assurance from a powerful committee chairman to hold a hearing on what Scott said was a "Sopranos"-like coercion from the federal government.

The governor echoed a theme from April, when he first compared the Obama administration's push to the TV show on organized crime.

Scott said Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, would hold a hearing his summer "to review this coercion."

Scott met with more than a dozen Florida Republicans and urged them to join the fight.

"They can continue to highlight what the federal government is doing, what the Obama administration is doing by, one, walking away from an existing program for poor families and, two, using coercion tactics -- this is the Sopranos," he said.

Scott dismissed a question about using Florida's budget surplus to avoid a case-line "continuation" budget. He said, however, that the spending plan would account for money that must be allocated under the voter-approved Amendment 1 for environmental conservation.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Who Rick Scott is talking to in Washington, D.C.

As part of a Washington, D.C., whirlwind tour — his second in as many weeks — Gov. Rick Scott is making stops with more than a dozen members of Congress.

Last time he visited the nation's capitol, Scott was there to negotiate with federal regulators on the health care funding stalemate in Florida. So far, no similar meetings have been announced for this trip. Yesterday, he had interviews with Fox News and Politico and met with Rep. Gus Bilirakis.

On the agenda for today are 14 additional Republican members of Florida’s congressional delegation:
* Rep. Jeff Miller
* Rep. Tom Rooney
* Rep. Ron DeSantis
* Rep. Ted Yoho
* Rep. Curt Clawson
* Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
* Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart
* Rep. Carlos Curbelo
* Rep. David Jolly
* Rep. Dennis Ross
* Rep. Rich Nugent
* Rep. Bill Posey
* Rep. Vern Buchanan
* Rep. John Mica

Plus other House and Senate leaders:
* Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
* Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee

On Fox News, Scott gives up: We won't do what 'I wanted to do'

Gov. Rick Scott appeared on Greta Van Susteren's show on Fox News Monday night and sounded resigned to the fact that the Legislature won't give him the tax cuts and school spending surge that he promised Florida voters when he ran for re-election last year.

"What I believe is going to happen is this," Scott said. "We'll just have a continuation budget, which will mean we'll have about an $8 billion surplus ... We'll just do what we've done this last year. We won't put more money into schools, which I wanted to do. We won't cut taxes, which I wanted to do. We'll just leave the money there and deal with it in our next session which starts in January."

(Note: Cutting taxes remains a House priority and the state can't possibly have anything close to an $8 billion surplus unless the Legislature decided to put no money into cash reserves, which it likely would never do).

Scott also defended his double flip on Medicaid expansion. He opposed "Obamacare" when he ran Conservatives for Patients Rights, came out in favor of full-blown Medicaid expansion in 2013, and sided with the House this spring in opposing the Senate's modified Medicaid expansion plan that has prompted the current legislative stalemate.

"I said at the time (in 2013), I will not stand in the way of the federal government if they want to take care of the low-income families," Scott told Fox. "I said the same thing about high-speed rail. If the federal government wants to run a program in my state, have at it. But don't expect me to tax my citizens, and I still stand by that."

May 11, 2015

About Gov. Rick Scott's profit sharing idea...

How do state lawmakers feel about Republican Gov. Rick Scott's recent suggestion that hospitals pool their profits to cover charity care?

Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman René García, R-Hialeah, called the idea "worth exploring."

"I've always said that everything should be on the table," he said. "We need to have a comprehensive approach when we look at the delivery of healthcare that talks about access, quality, affordability and reducing the cost."

There, however, was a caveat.

"I think it would be very difficult for local communities to send their tax money to other communities rather than re-investing it in their own backyard," García said, pointing out that only some counties raise local dollars for health care. 

The idea may not go anywhere in the House.

"I think there are other solutions available to Florida that do not include a hospital profit share plan," Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said in a statement.

For the past decade, Florida hospitals have relied on a federal-state program known as the Low Income Pool to help pay for charity care. But the program may not be renewed next year, meaning a loss of $1.3 billion in federal healthcare funding.

The House, Senate and governor's office are proposing different ways to plug the hole.

The Senate wants to accept $2.8 billion in federal Medicaid expansion money to help provide more coverage to low-income Floridians on the front end. The House wants to approve a series of reforms that would broaden access to health care and lower the cost.

Scott, meanwhile, has convened a commission on hospital and healthcare funding to explore how taxpayer-supported hospitals spend their money. He has asked the members to look specifically at profit sharing as a solution to the possible end of LIP.

Chairman of new hospital panel is six-figure donor to Scott, GOP

Carlos Beruff, the southwest Florida home builder who will chair Gov. Rick Scott's new Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding, has been a steady contributor to Scott's two campaigns for governor and to the Republican Party of Florida, having written checks totaling $121,000.

Campaign finance records show Beruff donated $75,000 to Let's Get to Work, Scott's political committee and $3,000 to Scott's 2014 re-election campaign. Beruff, of Parrish, is president of Medallion Homes, which gave $40,000 to the state GOP last year and an additional $3,000 to Scott's campaign. 

Dr. Jason Rosenburg, a Gainesville microsurgeon and the only doctor among the nine commission appointees, donated $4,450 to Let's Get to Work and to Scott in the 2014 cycle.

Gov. Rick Scott appoints nine to hospital funding panel

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday named nine people to his newly created Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding.

None of the members are hospital executives. Only one is a medical doctor.

Missing from the list: Sens. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, and Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood. 

Both volunteered to to serve.

Scott also announced that Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek and Surgeon General John Armstrong will serve as co-executive directors of the commission. The group's first meeting will take place in Tallahassee on May 20. 

The commission has been tasked with investigating outcomes at hospitals that receive taxpayer funding, as well as executive compensation and spending on lobbyists, advertising and political campaigns. The Republican governor also wants the group to explore the idea of profit sharing among hospitals.

Here are the names (and short bios) provided to reporters:

Continue reading "Gov. Rick Scott appoints nine to hospital funding panel" »

Florida Supreme Court throws out blind trust appeal

In an unanimous ruling, the Florida Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal to review a lower court decision upholding the state's blind trust law.

The former chief of staff to the late Gov. Reubin Askew, Jim Apthrop, filed the appeal after the First District Court of Appeal rejected his lawsuit as "speculative," since no official was currently using the 2013 blind trust.

Apthorp wanted the court to throw out the state's blind trust law, saying it violates the constitutional requirement that public officials fully disclose their financial assets. He argued that the appeals court improperly sidestepped the question of whether the law was unconstitutional.

The law allows public officials to to create a blind trust in lieu of revealing their assets on a financial disclosure form. Apthorp alleges the Florida Legislature violated the state’s financial disclosure law when it allowed public officials to shield their assets in a blind trust.

The only public official to use the law is Gov. Rick Scott, a multimillionaire former hospital chief executive. After the lawsuit was filed, however, Scott dissolved his blind trust and detailed his assets in his financial disclosure form filed in June when he announced his decision to seek re-election. He has since said he would re-establish the trust, thereby shielding his assets again for his second term.


Rick Scott's Mostly False claim about LIP and Medicaid

Washington may favor expanding Medicaid, Gov. Rick Scott argues, but it won’t help the people being served by the soon-to-expire Low Income Pool, called LIP.

Speaking to reporters, Scott said he doesn’t share the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ position that growing Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act is a better solution than renewing the current LIP fund. The LIP program, which mostly helps cover hospital costs for uninsured and underinsured patient visits, is set to expire June 30.

"The families that are covered through the Low Income Pool is a different group of individuals than are covered by Obamacare," Scott said.

Given the context, we’re taking "Obamacare" to mean Medicaid expansion; we contacted Scott’s office, but they didn’t elaborate.

One of the chief arguments for Medicaid expansion is that it would cover uninsured Floridians, many of whom receive care at hospitals and clinics that then turn to the LIP program to offset costs. We decided to check if Scott was right about those being two different sets of potential patients.

See what Joshua Gillin of PolitiFact Florida found and here is our full file on fact-checks about Medicaid.

May 08, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott asks hospitals to consider profit sharing

Gov. Rick Scott is pitching a new idea to help Florida hospitals handle the potential loss of federal funds: profit sharing.

"This would be similar to how large market baseball teams share revenues with small market baseball teams," the Republican governor wrote in a Friday letter to hospital executives. "With the hospital industry's record-high profits, it does not make sense for the hospital industry to ask state taxpayers to back fill funding the Obama Administration has elected to terminate."

A spokeswoman for the Florida Hospital Association said her organization was still reviewing the letter.

Jackson Health System in Miami had not yet done so late Friday.

Scott's suggestion comes as lawmakers are struggling to build the state health care budget.

Federal health officials have said they will not renew a $2.2 billion federal-state program that reimburses Florida hospitals for charity care. The state proposed a successor to the so-called Low Income Pool, but has yet to hear back from the feds.

In his Friday letter, Scott suggested that the federal government was unlikely to continue the funding, and said state lawmakers should "begin preparing a state budget without any LIP funds from the federal government."

Continue reading "Gov. Rick Scott asks hospitals to consider profit sharing" »