A push to expand Medicaid coverage to 1.2 million low-income Floridians is being championed by some unlikely supporters.
On Tuesday, the St. Pete Area Chamber of Commerce joined the League of Women Voters, the St. Pete Clinic and NAACP to call for the Florida Legislature to accept $51 billion in federal money to fund the expansion.
The chamber’s board voted earlier this year to support the Medicaid expansion, which is projected to add 5,100 jobs in building, manufacturing, retail and health care. Gov. Rick Scott also came out in favor of accepting the federal money, after previously opposing it. But it also needs to be noted that the Republican governor did little to stop GOP lawmakers from rejecting the money.
Providing Medicaid insurance to low-income residents is projected to reduce health care costs for businesses that already provide insurance to their employees, since the cost of charity care is absorbed through higher rates.
Chamber member Ann Drake McMullen of Doyle Wealth Management described the cost of charity care as a "hidden tax" on businesses that do pay for insurance.
“We see it as key to economic growth, job growth and the vitality of the community,” said Travis Norton, advocacy manager with the chamber.
Florida is among a handful of states that have refused federal Medicaid dollars, with the Republican-led House effectively killing the measure this past session.
Arkansas lawmakers recently voted to accept the funds, after previously refusing the money. Is Florida next?
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High water mark in state politics: Florida politicians are showing a rare esprit de corps in another key area.
Florida’s two U.S. senators, whose ideologies often clash, came together Tuesday for a press conference to urge bipartisanship in Congress to address rising rates for federal flood insurance.
Florida policy holders are the hardest hit in the nation, facing a spike in premiums for subsidized insurance that is increasing to reflect "true flood risk." Many policy holders have never filed claims and their low rates have been grandfathered in for several years.
U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio appeared together at a Washington press conference Tuesday to call for new reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program. While Nelson, a Democrat, has been pushing for quick action, Rubio, a Republican, had been silent until now.
Leaders in Pinellas County — where there are 51,000 property owners with subsidized policies — predict that the higher rates, which began taking effect Tuesday, will lead to home foreclosures and devastate the recovering real estate market.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott also is pressuring GOP members of Congress to support easing the rate hike, though he did blame the Obama administration for failing to address the problem.
Subsidies in the 45-year-old National Flood Insurance Program are being phased out under the Biggert-Waters Act, which Congress adopted in 2012.
Vacation with no pay: The federal government's partial shutdown is having an effect in Tampa. More than 1,200 civilian workers at MacDill Air Force Base have been furloughed.
The jobs are considered non-essential to security. The temporary loss of workers not only affects general operations at the base, but local businesses are impacted as well.
MacDill issued the following statement prior to the shutdown: "We expect to see reduced service levels to include: our family readiness programs, education and training programs and medical programs, plus other areas that take care of our service men and women, retirees and entire MacDill community. The government shutdown will have a lasting impact on our families and service men and women, but should not hinder existing operations or the safety and security of our forces and base."
Vote by mail:: The ballots — 89,000 of them — are in the mail for local elections in St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Kenneth City that will take place on Nov. 5.
On Tuesday, Oct. 1, the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections mailed out ballots for municipal elections that will decide:
• St. Petersburg’s Mayor. Incumbent Bill Foster is challenged by challenger Rick Kriseman. The mayor’s office is supposed to be non-partisan. But both Kriseman, a former Democratic legislator, and Foster, a Republican, have received help from the state parties. The election also will decide some City Council seats.
• The future of Clearwater’s aquarium. Voters will decide whether to allow a $160.5 million marine complex — and new home for celebrity Winter the dolphin — to be built on downtown City Hall property. The vote is to decide a 60-year lease with the aquarium.
• Kenneth City’s form of government. Voters are asked whether they want to stick with the current City Council form or government or hire a City Manager to run operations.