Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas House members say they would pay more for health insurance

ST. PETERSBURG — Three Pinellas County legislators who voted against accepting federal Medicaid money defended their heavily subsidized state health plans Tuesday but said they were open to footing more of the bill.

Reps. Larry Ahern, Ed Hooper and Kathleen Peters were among eight Pinellas legislators grilled Tuesday by members of Suncoast Tiger Bay. The three receive health insurance for $8.34 a month but voted against accepting billions of dollars in additional federal health care aid for poor Floridians.

The Tampa Bay Times noted the awkward juxtaposition in a Tuesday story.

"I don't mind paying more for that insurance," Ahern told a Times reporter after the 90-minute luncheon at the St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater Hotel.

House members pay $8.34 a month for individual health insurance, or $30 a month to cover a family. That's one-sixth of what members of the Senate and most state employees pay.

Taxpayers pay nearly $600 a month to cover each individual House member, according to the state. Lois Fries, a 73-year-old Democrat from Largo, seized on that and asked, "How do you justify that hypocrisy without expanding Medicaid?"

Ahern and Hooper, R-Clearwater, pointed to the national debt, saying Florida could not rely on the federal government. Peters, R-South Pasadena, stressed she voted against the Medicaid expansion alternative because there was never a focus on how it would work, not because of the federal money.

As far as her own health insurance, Peters noted that House members only make about $29,000 a year. Still, she said their low premiums are "not fair and equitable" compared with what state workers and others pay for health insurance.

In 2012, Florida senators agreed to increase premiums they pay to match most state employees. No one has explained why the House declined to follow the Senate.

"There just wasn't time to address every important issue that we had to deal with," Hooper said in an interview, blaming in part the Medicaid debate. Hooper said he would vote for a higher premium if there's a movement to "jack it up."

Aside from the health care debate, lawmakers talked about the $74.5 billion state budget and ribbed each other about who had the most hometown projects. Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, joked that a Florida TaxWatch report on budget "turkeys," or wasteful projects, will have a chapter on Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg.

There was also an allusion to "Mary," the robotic House auto-reader that sped through legislative text for hours when Democrats forced all bills to be read in full. The time-killing move was in protest of House Republicans opposing Medicaid expansion.

"You guys disrespected (House Speaker Will Weatherford) with your trick of reading the bills on the floor," Hooper said. "He was hurt by that, and I think he certainly had a right to be hurt, and I wish that hadn't happened."

"I'm sorry, that's a good one," said an unrepentant Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg.

Pinellas House members say they would pay more for health insurance 05/14/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 9:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Study: Tampa Bay a top market for homebuyers on the move

    Real Estate

    The Tampa Bay area is among the top markets for homebuyers who are likely to move in the next few months, ATTOM Data Solutions says.

    The Tampa Bay area is among the top markets for homebuyers who are likely to move in the next few months, a survey found.
[Associated Press file photo]
  2. Tampa lawyer Fred Ridley to be new chairman of Augusta National, Masters' home (w/ video)

    Golf

    AUGUSTA, Ga. — Fred Ridley first came to Augusta National to compete in the 1976 Masters as the U.S. Amateur champion, and he played the opening round in the traditional pairing with the defending champion, Jack Nicklaus.

  3. Rays send down Chase Whitley, Andrew Kittredge; add Chih-Wei Hu, activate Alex Cobb

    Blogs

    After having to cover more than five innings following a short start by Austin Pruitt, the Rays shuffled their bullpen following Wednesday's game, sending down RHPs Chase Whitley and Andrew Kittredge,

    The Kittredge move was expected, as he was summoned to add depth to the pen Wednesday in advance of RHP Alex …

  4. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred moves closer to wanting a decision on Rays stadium

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred called Wednesday for urgency from Tampa Bay area government leaders to prioritize and move quicker on plans for a new Rays stadium.

    MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred talks with reporters at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.
  5. Six home runs doom Rays in loss to Blue Jays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — A curve that didn't bounce was the difference Wednesday as the Rays lost 7-6 to the Blue Jays in front of 8,264, the smallest Tropicana field crowd since Sept. 5, 2006.

    Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (11) greets center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) at the plate after his two run home run in the third inning of the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.