Florida Gov. Rick Scott has signed a bill that removes the ability of state regulators to challenge health insurance rates for a two-year period.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson had called for the bill to be vetoed, saying the legislation was “unconscionable.”
The GOP-controlled Florida Legislature passed the bill (SB 1842) in response to President Barack Obama’s federal health care overhaul. The bill is designed to bring state insurance codes into harmony with the federal law.
The insurance bill was one of four bills signed by the Republican governor. Another repeals a state law that requires gasoline to be blended with up to 10 percent ethanol.
Scott said in a bill-signing message he supported the decision by lawmakers to remove rate review for 2014 and 2015 while the federal law is implemented. The removal of rate regulation is not for all health insurance plans but for those not “grandfathered” in under the new federal law.
“Rates for new plans will be reviewed by the same federal government that will be enforcing and updating the new rules and regulations throughout this very fluid and uncertain transition period,” Scott wrote.
Nelson, a Democrat who is being pushed to challenge Scott in next year’s governor’s race, contended in his veto request that legislators removed state rate regulation in order to blame the health care overhaul if rates go up. Nelson was the state’s insurance commissioner before he ran for the U.S. Senate.
Dan McLaughlin, a spokesman for Nelson, blasted the governor’s decision to sign the bill.
“This is truly outrageous,” McLaughlin said. “It literally turns insurance companies loose on the public.”
One of the other bills signed by Scott was a measure (HB 4001) repealing the ethanol law passed while Gov. Charlie Crist was in office.
The legislation sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, is expected to have little effect because federal standards also mandate the blend. Additionally, Florida already removed criminal penalties for retailers that sell unblended gas.
Scott said in a bill-signing message that he supported the bill because the state should not have any mandates to “support a specific technology or industry sector.” Some Republicans opposed the repeal because they contended it would send a bad message to companies in the renewable-energy business.
Supporters of the bill argued that blended gas was damaging to engines and that Floridians should be able to choose what kind of gas they want to buy