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Florida republicans love to hate Obamacare

Florida is, by any measure, a weird place.

Our twitter persona is a series of increasingly unbelievable crime headlines.

Our sports teams celebrate a season of losing by losing their final game by less points than against previous opponents.

One of the arguably weirdest things about Florida, though, is obviously its politics. Consider August, when two mayors in Miami-Dade County were arrested in unrelated cases on the same day.

The current and most bizarre case of Florida politics is between our state republicans and the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Unfortunately, as much as I try to apologize to friends from other states, Florida plays a very important role in how Obamacare works for the rest of the nation. Florida republicans understand this, and they’re doing everything in their power to see it fail.

Disregarding the antics of Senator Marco Rubio, who seems to be appeasing his constituency of Iowan primary voters by joining with the radical lawmakers who shut down the federal government, this is largely the story of one man: Governor Voldemort Rick Scott.

For a bit of backstory, consider Governor Scott’s life before public office.

Scott, a Kansas-raised, Texan businessman, made gazillions in the ’90s running a private health care operation, Columbia/HCA, which owned hundreds of hospitals across the country. Perhaps uncoincidentally, Scott was forced to resign after raids by the FBI and department of health and human services on HCA led to lawsuits contending that the company systematically defrauded the federal government by over-billing on Medicare charges. The settlement of $1.7 billion that HCA was forced to pay is by far the largest fraud settlement in U.S. history.

In 2009, as Congress debated the newly elected President’s proposals for health insurance reform, Scott decided to enter the public debate by forming and funding – with $5 million of his own money – a political action group, Conservatives for Patients Rights. Even though the American Medical Association and other industry groups gave their blessings to the young law, CPR opposed it, comparing it with socialized medicine. It gave the pretense of an industry group opposed to Obamacare, and conservatives swept Scott into the governor’s mansion in 2010, after an almost singular (and again, expensive) $75 million campaign against the law.

Once in office in Tallahassee, Fla., Scott sued the federal government, contending that the law was unconstitutional. Remember that the 2012 Supreme Court ruling that upheld the law was originally named “Florida v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.” Ever since, the governor has tried to do everything in his power to create as many problems for an easy implementation of Obamacare as he can.

He refused to run a state insurance market exchange, dragging his feet and forcing the federal government to step in with time running out before the exchange is rolled out Monday. To his credit, he tried to accept the Medicaid expansion that was 100 percent funded by the feds for three years (Scott has always had a knack for taking Uncle Sam’s money), but the state legislature shot down the idea, a move that will leave 1 million Floridians without insurance come next year. Perhaps most draconianly, he issued an order that the state department of health refuse to let Obamacare ‘navigators’ work on state property.

The navigators, people hired to help explain Obamacare to uninsured citizens, under the thin link of privacy protection, are only allowed to answer questions about the program if they are asked. As Stephen Colbert put it, “You can only ask for the material that will inform you about the program if you know about the program enough to ask for the material.”

Despite all of this, there are shoots of good news coming through. Counties are pushing back against the navigator clampdown. Floridians will have the second most insurance options to choose from on the new exchange, and premiums are lower than expected: A 27-year-old making $25,000 a year would, on average, pay $218 without taking into account the subsidies available.

The worst part is that Florida seriously needs good health insurance reform to rectify some of the worst wrongs in our policy and health outcomes. On the whole, Florida ranks 34th in the annual state health ranking survey, but scored an appalling 49th in access to health insurance. Twenty-five percent of the state doesn’t have any insurance at all. In the third most populous state in the union, that means around 4 million people.

The people of Florida are very much defined by immigrants, seniors and the less well-off, all groups that would benefit tremendously from expansion of health insurance access. Perhaps it would do our elected officials good to remember these people in the future. Two-thousand fourteen is an important year for the Governor: Not only will it be when Americans will see most of the parts of Obamacare go into effect, but it will also be when Floridians head to the polls to vote for governor.

Links I’m reading:

Domestic Politics
“The story of the conservative movement that has come to dominate the Republican Party over the last four decades is inextricably intertwined with the story of the Heritage Foundation. In that time, it became more than just another think tank. It came to occupy a place of special privilege — a quasi-official arm of GOP administrations and Congresses; a sponsor of scholarship and supplier of legislation; a policy base for the party when out of power…These days, Heritage has a different crusade.” – Molly Ball in The Atlantic

International Affairs
“Geopolitics is all about leverage: who’s got it and who doesn’t. Today, the negotiating table is tilted our way.” –Tom Friedman in The New York Times

Economics and Public Policy
“Right now, the risk of deflation is greater than the risk of explosive inflation. And the probability of continuing to undershoot the inflation target is far greater than the probability of overshooting it. Indeed, the Fed’s own estimates suggest that it expects to continue undershooting the inflation target for at least three more years.” –Justin Wolfers in Bloomberg View

South Florida
“From the opening the Roney Plaza Hotel in the 20s (now gone) to the late 50s and 60s, the heart of Miami Beach was not South Beach, or the larger parcels from the Fontainebleau Hotel north, but the stretch of oceanfront along Collins Avenue from Lincoln Road to the Sorrento Hotel on 44th Street.” –Sean McHaughan in Curbed Miami

On Campus
“Before the University of Miami was dubbed a top-50 institution by U.S. News & World Report, it was known for its unwanted reputation as the “Suntan U.” In 1949, the Saturday Evening Post – a glossy publication similar to The New Yorker – published an article emphasizing the university’s “country club” atmosphere.” –Stephanie Parra in The Miami Hurricane

Quinlan vs the World is a blog about one student’s take on the politics, policies and economics of the world around him.

October 4, 2013

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Patrick Quinlan


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