- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:


July 5

The Florida Times-Union on health care information for Floridians:

Sometime in the near future Floridians will be able to more easily compare the cost and quality of major medical procedures.

This is thanks to a new law co-sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island. Consumers will be empowered to compare when shopping for health care.

The law includes the development of a website with prices of treatment from hospitals and ambulatory centers. It also gives consumers the right to receive written price estimates.

This legislation is more important than ever because the cost of health care is increasingly being born by consumers through larger co-pays and deductibles.

“The annual increase in health care costs has outpaced inflation in every year for the past seven years except 2008,” noted the legislative analysis of Bradley’s bill.

From 2010 to 2015, the average premium increase for covered workers with family coverage increased by 27 percent while wages only increased by 10 percent, the analysis stated.

In fact, the average out-of-pocket expenses for people with employer-sponsored insurance rose by 37 percent between 2009 and 2013, reported researchers at the University of Michigan.

The amount that people who were hospitalized paid toward their deductibles increased by 86 percent.

Most Americans realize that quality and price often are not connected when it comes to health care.

There is underuse, misuse and overuse. And since payment is handled through a third party there has been little incentive and little ability for consumers to do much about cost.

Though the bill took effect on July 1, the impact will not be felt by consumers at once.

For instance, the website that provides the information will require contracting with a vendor. Other examples:

For instance, diagnostic imaging centers owned by a hospital but not located on the premises must post a schedule of charges.

All in all, this is not only nice to have but it’s essential these days.

A total of 28 other states already have such laws, so it is about time for Florida to get in the game.




July 3

The Miami Herald on a massive algae bloom:

Just in time for the July 4 weekend, a massive algae bloom sprouted on Florida’s Treasure Coast last week, fouling the waters, estuaries and beaches and posing the threat of further damage to the entire ecosystem around Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.

These are the first signs of a potentially larger disaster that environmentalists long predicted. Gov. Rick Scott and state water managers were apparently caught unaware, even though they were repeatedly warned this was bound to occur.

The governor declared an emergency for Martin and St. Lucie counties on Wednesday, which he extended on Thursday to cover Palm Beach and Lee County on the West Coast. It allows state officials to monitor the water for toxins and establishes a “Bloom Reporting Hotline.” But not much else.

The governor’s approach falls short of dealing with the fundamental problem of discharges of polluted water from Lake O. To compound his lame response, he resorted to his usual dodge when problems arise on his watch - blame someone else. Mr. Scott accused the Obama administration of failing to act on this issue, but Mr. Scott himself contributed to the crisis.

Since taking office in 2011, Gov. Scott has repeatedly assailed federal clean-water standards. He blocked a plan championed by environmentalists - and by his predecessor, Charlie Crist - to buy sugar industry land south of Lake O for water storage. And it was this governor, together with the Legislature, who agreed to a sneaky plan that diverts funding approved by voters to buy land that could be used for water storage to other, non-environmental projects.

Environmentalists have been warning for years that the state’s water policies in South Florida were a disaster waiting to happen, and that other solutions were needed to stop the discharges from Lake Okeechobee that were fouling the state’s coastal areas. Now the disaster has arrived.

The algae blooms are the result of nutrient-laden pollutants flowing into the waters that flow east and west from Lake Okeechobee.

In Martin County, where the blooms appeared, the problem is exacerbated by aging sewage systems and septic tanks. Some experts believe that even if the lake’s discharges could be halted, human activities in the watershed would still produce algae blooms. Fixing this part will be a long-term project that requires state involvement and help from the federal government.

There can be no permanent solution, however, without finding a fix for the discharges from Lake O. The U.S. Corps of Engineers has spent $500 million since 2007 to reduce the risk of catastrophic failure around the 143-mile dike. More bolstering is underway, but this will take time. Beginning this weekend, the Corps of Engineers has reduced the discharges into Martin and St. Lucie counties, but this is only a stopgap measure.

That is why environmentalists have long fought to persuade the state to buy land south of the lake for a storage reservoir. Sending it east or west is bound to produce pollution along Florida’s coasts. The worst option of all at this time would be to send it south - the absence of a reservoir would produce a devastating effect in the Everglades.

Gov. Scott and state water managers should stop resisting efforts to build a reservoir south of the lake. The longer it takes them to accept that this is the best way to protect the region’s environment, the longer that environment will be in peril.




July 3

The Pensacola News Journal on the Florida Department of Transportation:

Forget the barometric pressure. The bureaucratic pressure is becoming unbearable.

We’re talking about the bureaucratic pressure being leveled against Gulf Breeze Mayor Matt Dannheisser for seeking public information about proposals for the $500 million Pensacola Bay Bridge replacement.

It increasingly appears that officials at the Florida Department of Transportation - state employees funded by your tax dollars - intentionally want to keep you in the dark until after the massive contract is awarded. If anything, the tremendous dollar amount should demand a higher level of transparency than usual. And the extraordinary importance of the bridge deserves greater involvement with residents who drive it daily.

Yet when Mayor Dannheisser pushed the FDOT to show citizens information to which they are entitled under state law, he was pressured to withdraw a public records request under veiled and illogical threats that it could compromise the entire project.

It’s inexcusable for a state agency to threaten a crucial infrastructure project simply because a local official is seeking transparency. But what’s worse is that another local elected official acted as a middle man in the intimidation.

Reporter Will Isern pieced together a time line of telephone calls that started when transportation officials contacted Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson to say that Dannheisser’s public records request “was going to cause problems.” Wink, wink.

Robinson then called FDOT District 3 Secretary Tommy Barfield, who restated his belief that Dannheisser’s requests could delay the project and jeopardize the funding - although Barfield has offered no reasonable explanation for that scenario. Taxpayers should take note that Secretary Barfield has previously recused himself from the bidding process because his brother-in-law works with one of the firms competing for the project. At the very least, it creates a troubling perception that Barfield would recuse himself at one point of the process, yet insert himself into another.

Upon speaking to Barfield, Commissioner Robinson could have defended his constituents’ right to public records or argued for the importance of transparency and public input or even scolded Barfield for threatening taxpayers with their own money. But he did not. Instead, Robinson chose to call Dannheisser to say it would be good if he were to withdraw the request.

“I did call Matt,” Robinson said. “I did say, ‘Matt, I’m getting phone calls, if this becomes this much of a problem, they’re going to pull the money. My thought process is we shouldn’t mess with it.’”

How’s that for bold leadership?

Then on Thursday, Robinson followed up his phone play with an email to Gulf Breeze City Manager Edwin “Buzz” Eddy that drew absurd analogies to regret from the “Brexit” vote and even more ridiculously, World War I.

The vague threats of delays and lost funding without justification are insults to taxpayers. Robinson should be ashamed for echoing them. If that’s truly the way this state agency operates, then it’s borderline criminal. Taxpayers should not be held hostage with their own money. Besides, it defies all logic that transparency somehow inherently harms progress on the bridge.

Mayor Dannheisser should keep pressuring FDOT. He’s taking a right and reasonable stand in defense of citizens. It’s too bad taxpayers on the other side of the bridge can’t say the same about their county commissioner.



Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide