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COLUMN

Happytown

All we got for Christmas were political consequences, a shiny new Tom Feeney and some elephant arthritis via Cloris Leachman. A mixed bag, then!

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If there’s any lesson to be gleaned from the twinkling-light moralism (sprinkled with gingerbread-flavored economic indicators, natch) of the holidays, it’s that consequences are just about the only gifts you can depend upon. Such has undoubtedly been the case with the fabled, painful rise of Florida’s latest Republican iniquity paradigm in which your fearless leaders have been committing science-fair atrocities aimed at the well-being of you and your neighbors and laughing all the way to the bank. Alas, it appears that sickening Grinch-laughter on the part of the governor may have been premature. One year into Gov. Rick Scott’s reign, and the cracks in some of his cornerstone policies are starting to look like festering wounds scraping against a bumpy reality wall. We’re hemorrhaging for Christmas!

On Dec. 15, word trickled down from the White House that one of the state’s many-faceted attempts to avoid the Affordable Care Act had taken a hit. You’ll recall that Florida – by way of then-Attorney General Bill McCollum – was the originator of the scurrilous 26-state lawsuit challenging “Obamacare” and its constitutionality; that case will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in March. But Thursday’s news was a little more nuanced. Written into the ACA is a directive that requires insurance companies to manage their medical-loss ratiosin a manner that sees them spending at least 80 percent of the premiums they take in on actual medical costs, with only the remaining 20 percent to spend on giant salaries and drunken holiday camping retreats (i.e., administrative costs). According to the Washington Post, over the last year, 17 states have applied for waivers to put off the new regulation until, well, the politics monstertakes over the Supreme Court and the whole thing is tossed out so we never have to talk about it again.

Florida’s involvement in the waiver gamble is a very big deal, because the state has 21 insurance companies on the individual market and a giant heap of old people in need of health care. So the fact that Florida’s waiver application was denied last week with a 16-page response that declared the regulation would not “destabilize the Florida individual market” raises the stakes on the never-ending health-care debate, and could mean that insurers will be writing $60 million in rebate checks to the state’s insured citizens. Also, it shows that the White House is none too afraid of Scott or his 26 percent approval rating. Who wins? You do, Cindy Lou.

Another key tenet to Scott’s generalized awfulness – that voting should be a hard-earned right reserved for rich Republican white people, basically – came under fire last week when, on Dec. 15, the League of Women Voters of Florida, Florida Public Interest Research Group and Rock the Vote officially filed suit against the state for unfair voter suppression via this year’s HB 1355. The move came on the heels of some stern “moral imperative” words from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on the issue and news that there would be a Senate hearing on the matter held in Tampa on Jan. 27 at the behest of Sen. Bill Nelson. At issue in the suit are the blurry terms applied to voter registration efforts by the plaintiffs and whether those terms are constitutional. Specifically, the threat of felonies and finesfor those who dare to try to bring more people into the fold of this representative democracy has rendered standard practices null and void.

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