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. Lightning edges Red Wings on road

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — The digs were different, the Lightning seeing the masterfully-done new Little Caesar's Arena for the first time.

    Lightning center/Red Wings’ killer Tyler Johnson gets past defenseman Trevor Daley on his way to the first goal of the game.
  2. Armwood pulls away to defeat Plant 27-7, remain undefeated

    Footballpreps

    SEFFNER — First-year Armwood coach Evan Davis pulled out all the stops to get his team psyched for Monday's annual grudge match against Plant.

    Armwood defensive end Malcolm Lamar (97) gets fired up before the start of the game between Plant High School Panthers and the Armwood High School Hawks in Suffer, Fla. on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017.
  3. Clearwater police: Car thief dead after owner fires gun

    Crime

    CLEARWATER — One man is dead after the owner of a car fired shots at the thieves who were stealing it Monday night, police said.

  4. Iraqi forces sweep into Kirkuk, checking Kurdish independence drive

    World

    KIRKUK, Iraq — After weeks of threats and posturing, the Iraqi government began a military assault Monday to curb the independence drive by the nation's Kurdish minority, wresting oil fields and a contested city from separatists pushing to break away from Iraq.

    Iraqi security forces patrol Monday in Tuz Khormato, about 45 miles south of Kirkuk, a disputed city that the government seized in response to last month’s Kurdish vote for independence.
  5. Trump and McConnell strive for unity amid rising tensions

    National

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, tried to convey a sense of harmony Monday after months of private feuding that threatened to undermine their party's legislative push in the coming weeks to enact a sweeping tax cut.

    President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell field questions Monday in the Rose Garden of the White House. “We have been friends for a long time,” Trump said.