Sunday, June 17, 2018
The Buzz
  • The Buzz
  • From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Richard Corcoran’s health care record a mixed bag

Before becoming House speaker, Richard Corcoran promised in 2015 that he was going to tackle the "Gucci-loafing, shoe-wearing special interest powers" that lobby in Tallahassee and protect the status quo.

But a look back at Corcoran's track record as speaker during the past two sessions shows that the Land O' Lakes Republican, who is known for his political acumen and ability to steer legislation through the process, didn't always come out on top with his health-care agenda.

Corcoran passed one of three health-care priorities this session, a bill (HB 37) that would allow patients and physicians to enter into "direct primary care" agreements. Two other priorities — HB 23, which would have allowed patients to stay overnight at ambulatory surgical centers and established "recovery care" centers, and HB 27, which would have eliminated Florida's "certificate of need" regulatory program for hospitals — failed to get through the Senate.

"With his tenure of service in the House and the great reputation Mr. Corcoran has, one would think that any issue that he's been supportive of would certainly pass during the legislative session," said David Shapiro, a physician, board member of the Florida Society of Ambulatory Surgical Centers and a proponent of the ambulatory surgical-center bill.

"So I'm an outside observer of the legislative process, but as disappointed I am it didn't pass, there's also an element of surprise," he said.

For political insider Mike Fasano, the Pasco County tax collector who served in the House and Senate, it's a whole lot less surprising.

"It's very difficult to achieve what you really want to achieve in two or four years," said Fasano, who met Corcoran in the 1980s when the speaker was starting the Young Republicans of Pasco County.

And If a lawmaker has future political aspirations, Fasano said, it becomes even more challenging.

Corcoran, who will leave the House this fall after eight years, is widely rumored to be running for governor, though he has not announced his candidacy.

"If you have a speaker or president of the Senate say, 'This is it. When I'm done, I'm going back home,' and they have no desire to be anything else, then you're sitting in a position that you don't care what the special interests do or don't do to you," Fasano said. "But those are the same people funding your campaign for higher office, and that's why it's even tougher. You can't go to the extremes you want to. I am not saying it's good. I'm only saying it's reality."

Corcoran had health-care success during this year's session, which ended Sunday. The Legislature passed the "direct primary care" bill after four years of considering the proposal.

Under direct primary-care agreements, doctors charge patients monthly fees in advance of providing services, with patients then able to access services at no extra charge. HB 37 does not spell out how much can be charged or what services need to be included in the agreements.

An early proponent of the "direct primary care" legislation was the National Federation of Independent Business Florida, which saw it as an option for its small business members and as an alternative to Obamacare policies on the market.

NFIB Florida Executive Director Bill Herrle said the bill was targeted for defeat in 2015 and 2016 because of bickering between the House and Senate over health-care policy.

"In every instance in the past with direct primary care, we can point to other circumstances that led to it not getting to the finish line," Herrle said. "None of those circumstances were a lack of interest or effort on his part. It is a bicameral Legislature. It's the system."

In another fiery speech from 2015, then-budget chairman Corcoran talked about "transforming" the state group health-insurance plan for state workers. And he called members who opposed the efforts at the time "protectors of the status quo."

Corcoran promised at the time that "if it is the last dying breath I have as a legislator, we will crack the status quo. And this is will be one of the ways we do it."

The Legislature passed a state group health-insurance rewrite bill in 2017, two years after the speech.

But, insiders say, Corcoran shouldn't be judged on what bills he passed. For Sal Nuzzo, vice president of policy at the The James Madison Institute, Corcoran was successful in "keeping bad stuff from happening."

"Just as important as advancing good free-market health care is making sure that policy doesn't go in the opposite direction. Opposing Medicaid expansion and disastrous effects is just as much keeping with free market principles," Nuzzo said.

Karen Woodall, executive director of the left-leaning Florida Center for Economic and Fiscal Policy, agreed with Nuzzo that Corcoran will also be remembered for leading the opposition to a Medicaid expansion in 2015.

The Senate that year had included federal Medicaid expansion money in the budget, but the House refused to go along. The discord led to a budget impasse and forced lawmakers into a special legislative session, and ultimately the state didn't expand Medicaid as allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act.

"His footprint has been to deny 800,000 low-income uninsured Floridians access to health insurance. Leaving billions of Florida taxpayer dollars in D.C. and costing Florida tens of thousands of high-paying jobs in health care," Woodall said when asked about Corcoran.

Comments
Former Beach Mayor Levine: Four years of accomplishments, conflicts and self-promotion

Former Beach Mayor Levine: Four years of accomplishments, conflicts and self-promotion

Shortly after voters made him mayor of Miami Beach, Philip Levine gave his campaign strategist a garish poster with the strategist's comically smiling face mounted atop the rippled body of warrior Spartan King Leonidas.Standing before a bloody battle...
Published: 06/17/18
Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

Winner of the weekChris King and Andrew Gillum. The liberal Winter Park businessman and Tallahassee Mayor continue to be standouts in Democratic debates and joint appearances, coming off as the most authentic and passionate. In King's case, he also c...
Published: 06/17/18
Florida Insider Poll finds doubt Democrats will nominate strongest candidate

Florida Insider Poll finds doubt Democrats will nominate strongest candidate

The verdict is clear among Florida's political elites as to who would be the strongest gubernatorial nominees for the general election: Democrat Gwen Graham and Republican Adam Putnam.But among more than 200 Florida political experts participating in...
Published: 06/15/18
Rick Scott fires back in election-year early voting lawsuit

Rick Scott fires back in election-year early voting lawsuit

Gov. Rick Scott's administration fired back in federal court Friday, seeking to undercut a League of Women Voters lawsuit over early voting on college campuses.The League last month sued Scott's chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzne...
Published: 06/15/18

Group ramps up to elect Democrats up and down Florida ballot

A giant, union-backed political group that knocked on an estimated 3 million doors in Florida in 2016 is revving up for an even more ambitious effort this year aimed at electing Democrats up and down the ballot, passing the felon voting rights initia...
Published: 06/15/18
Nelson offered this man up for a judicial position. Now heíll vote against him.

Nelson offered this man up for a judicial position. Now heíll vote against him.

WASHINGTON – Sen. Bill Nelson said today he will vote against a judicial nominee he offered up to the White House along with Sen. Marco Rubio, a remarkable turn that raises questions about Nelson's own vetting process as he tried to put the foc...
Published: 06/15/18
State probes possible misuse of confidential driverís license info

State probes possible misuse of confidential driverís license info

State law enforcement authorities said Friday they are investigating the possible criminal misuse of confidential driver license data in a case involving a high-ranking state official."FDLE is investigating possible improper use of personal identifyi...
Published: 06/15/18
Judge sides with environmentalists, says lawmakers failed to comply with Amendment 1

Judge sides with environmentalists, says lawmakers failed to comply with Amendment 1

Striking a blow to the Legislature, a Tallahassee judge said state lawmakers failed to comply with a voter-approved constitutional amendment to buy and preserve environmentally sensitive lands.Ruling from the bench Friday, Leon County Circuit Judge C...
Published: 06/15/18
Gwen Graham files qualifying papers in run for governor

Gwen Graham files qualifying papers in run for governor

Former U.S. Rep Gwen Graham submitted qualifying paperwork in her bid for governor Friday morning, becoming the first major candidate to file officially in the statewide race.Though the official qualifying period for offices across the state is ...
Published: 06/15/18
Nelson, Rubio oppose breaking up immigrant families

Nelson, Rubio oppose breaking up immigrant families

WASHINGTON – The breakup of immigrant families at the southern border has generated significant controversy and discussion.So what do Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio think?Nelson has been outspoken on the issue and has joined legislat...
Published: 06/15/18