House Democrats chose Rep. Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach as their next leader

House Democrats chose Rep. Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach as their next leader in a vote last night, capping off a 48-hour campaign following the ouster of their first choice for the position.

Pafford, who will formally take over the caucus after the 2014 elections, defeated Rep. Alan Williams of Tallahassee in a 29-12 vote with one abstention. He replaces Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg, who was voted out of the post Monday after a series of clashes with other members of the caucus and with the leadership of the Florida Democratic Party.

"Our differences are actually what make this minority caucus stronger," Pafford, 47, said in remarks after his election. "And we need to take a moment to embrace our differences and make those differences our strength."

It will now fall to Pafford to try to reunite House Democrats and prepare for the 2014 elections, when the party hopes to increase the size of its 44-member minority in the 120-seat House. Speaking with reporters, Pafford said it would take some time for him to develop "a blueprint" for his efforts. 

"But the first thing is getting everybody comfortable and understanding that we've hit the reset button and we are one," he said.

For his part, Williams tried to shrug off any idea that there would be divisions left in the caucus after the vote. Williams said that, had he not run for the position, he would have voted for Pafford.

"I believe in his leadership," Williams said. "I think he's going to be a hell of a leader."

Williams also said he hoped Pafford and Democratic leaders would try to rehire Jeff Ryan, a former finance director for the House campaign effort who was fired as part of the standoff between Rouson and Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant.

"I think it's critical that we have him back to help in our fund-raising efforts," Williams said.

Pafford didn't rule out rehiring Ryan, saying only that he would "have to take a look at" the idea.

Throughout Wednesday night's activities, Democrats tried to push the case that they were united despite the three-day whirlwind that deposed Rouson and installed Pafford. Rep. Katie Edwards of Plantation paraphrased "The Godfather" movies while speaking on behalf of Williams.

"Whatever this war is, it ends now," she said.

Republicans, meanwhile, made the case that the election of Pafford -- who is generally viewed as more liberal than Williams -- would mean trouble for former Gov. Charlie Crist, a onetime Republican who is expected to run for the Democratic nomination for his old job. Crist would face former state Sen. Nan Rich, a champion of the party's more liberal wing, in the primary.

"With Mark Pafford anointed as the incoming leader for the House Democrats, this means that the House Democratic Caucus is lurching further to the left and tacitly rejecting Charlie Crist as their standard bearer," Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry said in a statement issued after the vote.

The Wednesday election was set in motion Monday, when Democrats met behind closed doors and voted to replace Rouson, who had set up a controversial campaign account to pay for House races without the knowledge of Florida Democratic Party leaders or members of the caucus.

While Rouson's decision to set up the "Affiliated Party Committee" was the immediate spark for his removal, trouble had been brewing for months. He won a narrow vote for the leadership post against Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, in February after Democrats deadlocked on the first ballot.

After his election, Rouson had contentious exchanges with a pair of House members at a public caucus meeting this summer about his choice of political consultants and strained relationships with trial lawyers and teachers, key groups in the party's infrastructure.

But for Democrats, the committee was particularly problematic because many of them, including Rouson, had voted against a bill that allowed the creation of such committees. Democrats blasted the committees as a revival of the old "leadership funds" and warned they would corrupt the process.

Tant later fired Ryan and another employee in connection with Rouson's committee, and several members started calling for Rouson to step aside. Rouson reportedly raised $147,000, which has since been transferred to the party.

In a statement Wednesday, Tant congratulated Pafford on his election.

"I look forward to working with Rep. Pafford and all House Democrats in building a unified and strong caucus," she said.

Senator Rubio decided to block the nomination of Judge William Thomas to the Southern District of Florida

This week, Senator Rubio decided to single-handedly block the nomination of Judge William Thomas to the Southern District of Florida. Why should this matter to you? Because it's just another example of Senator Rubio putting extremist politics ahead of what's best for Floridians, denying a highly qualified nominee from serving on our federal bench.
If confirmed, Judge Thomas would become the first black openly gay man on the federal bench, adding needed diversity to the Southern District. Judge Thomas grew up in a family of 10 children and rose to be regarded as one of the hardest-working, most competent judges on the Miami-Dade criminal court division. His qualifications were endorsed by the American Bar Association and he is supported by the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, the Broward County Police Benevolent Association, and the League of Prosecutors.
Despite all of these qualifications, and the support of President Obama and Senator Nelson, Senator Rubio still will not let Judge Thomas’ nomination go to the Senate floor for a simple yes or no vote.
The question for Senator Rubio is why? It sure looks like politics to me.
The vacancy in the Southern District has sat open for nearly 600 days. During this time, legal cases have backed up, making it harder for Floridians to access their courts. We need hard working, well qualified judges like William Thomas on the bench.
Floridians deserve to have their courts working at full capacity and Judge William Thomas deserves a simple yes or no vote.

Democrats voted to replace Rep. Darryl Rouson

House Democrats ousted their future leader,in a closed-door vote, opening up the position charged with leading their campaign efforts less than 14 months before the next general election.

On a 24-17 vote, Democrats voted to replace Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, who was set to take over as the party's leader in the House after the 2014 elections. While a replacement was not immediately named, Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, emerged as a likely candidate to take over in a vote Wednesday.

Rouson was toppled after setting up a controversial campaign account to pay for House races without the knowledge of Florida Democratic Party leaders or members of the caucus. Rouson's support in the caucus crumbled after reports about the campaign fund broke into the open.

"I asked for the opportunity to appear in front of the caucus and explain why I did what I did and the purpose for doing it," Rouson said after the vote. "The caucus afforded me that opportunity tonight, and I'm very grateful."

While he did not necessarily back away from his decision to set up the "Affiliated Party Committee," Rouson conceded he might have done things differently in retrospect.

"I admitted to the caucus that I maybe should have called in a few more members, that it might have been handled a little bit differently," he said.

House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, repeatedly attempted to downplay the kerfuffle over Rouson's leadership as one of the "minor disagreements" that can be expected in party caucuses, and brushed off concerns that it could divide Democrats, who hold just 44 seats in the 120-member House.

"I'm sure we're going to come together," he said. "Whoever we decide that will lead us in 2014 to16, we're going to do that united as well."

Rouson reportedly spoke to the caucus for about 20 minutes and then took questions from members for another 20 to 25 minutes. A handful of members asked questions.

After a break, members were able to make comments about what the party should do about the situation before the vote.

While Rouson's decision to set up the "Affiliated Party Committee" was the immediate spark for his removal, trouble had been brewing for months. He won a narrow vote for the leadership post against Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, in February after Democrats deadlocked on the first ballot.

And he had contentious exchanges with a pair of House members at a public caucus meeting during the summer about his choice of political consultants and strained relationships with trial lawyers and teachers, key groups in the party's infrastructure.

The vote to select a new leader will be held Wednesday, Thurston said. Pafford said he would likely run.

"If the caucus feels that I'm the person to kind of get things back on track and to probably mend some fences with the party and House Victory and also begin stewarding some of those long-time relationships, I'm happy to do that," he said.

Republicans giddily observed the intraparty battle, noting that it had been set off when Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant told House members about the campaign committee.

"Is Allison Tant leading the charge to purge her party’s incoming House leader because he did a better job at fundraising than she did?" asked Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry in a statement on the party's website.

For Democrats, the committee was problematic in part because many of them, including Rouson, had voted against a bill that allowed the creation of such committees. Democrats blasted the committees as a revival of the old "leadership funds" and warned they would corrupt the process.

Tant later fired two employees in connection with Rouson's committee, and several members started calling for Rouson to step aside.

Rouson reportedly raised $147,000, which has since been transferred to the party.

After Rouson defeated Jones in February, he said that he recognized the challenge he faced in trying to reunite the party.

"I've got my work cut out for me," he said.

Monday's ouster appeared to show it was work he never truly finished.

Florida lawmakers return to Tallahassee

Florida lawmakers return to Tallahassee this week for their first in a series of weekly meetings leading up to the 2014 legislative session next spring.
It will be an election-year session with Gov. Rick Scott, three state Cabinet members and many lawmakers keeping an eye on their electoral fortunes as they wade through the 60-day session that begins on March 4. 
With a slowly recovering economy producing more state revenue, lawmakers will have an easier path to passing a new state budget. But they face plenty of complicated challenges, ranging from increasing pressure to fund and expand Medicaid, the state-federal health care program for the poor and disabled, to an ongoing debate over education standards, testing and school grades.
As lawmakers begin their first session of committee meetings this week, here are some of the major issues on the 2014 legislative agenda:
The budget
Early estimates show the state should have a budget surplus in the range of $850 million for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
It will make it easier to craft a new $74 billion state budget, while funding new priorities. Scott, after cutting school funding in his first year, has pushed for $1 billion-plus increases in the two subsequent years. This year's budget also contained enough money for a significant pay raise for teachers. Scott and lawmakers are expected to continue to boost school funding, which still remains below the per-student spending achieved before the Great Recession.
Although the state has not opted to expand Medicaid coverage under the federal health care law, analysts project a 5.87 percent increase in Floridians relying on the current program, increasing the rolls by some 200,000 to nearly 3.7 million in total next year. The expansion will cost the state an estimated $400 million a year.
Despite the anticipated increase in state revenue, lawmakers and the governor are asking state agencies to outline a potential 5 percent cut in their spending that will be used in evaluating the next budget. State agencies are scheduled to turn in their 2014-15 budget requests by mid-October.
Tax cuts
Scott is calling for $500 million in unspecified tax cuts in the next budget year. Lawmakers are likely to back tax cuts, although the scope of the cuts and what type of taxes will be reduced will be part of the debate.
On a five-city tour this month, Scott expressed interest in a variety of proposals, including a further reduction in the number of businesses owing the state corporate income tax, lower property taxes, an expanded sales tax holiday and a reduction in the communications services tax that Floridians pay on their cellphone and cable TV bills.
Lawmakers and Scott are also interested in cutting the motor vehicle fees that were raised in 2009 when the state was struggling to balance its budget while facing declining revenues. Repealing the tag fees would cost more than $200 million.
Business groups and real estate agents are interested in eliminating the state sales tax on commercial property leases. They argue that Florida is one of the few governments that tax such arrangements. A full repeal would be costly, although lawmakers might agree to a phased reduction that would lower the 6 percent tax over time.
Common Core
Florida is one of 45 states that have agreed to establish Common Core education standards for math and reading. The standards are scheduled to take effect next fall.
But mounting criticism from conservatives — who view Common Core as a move for more federal involvement in state education — has fueled an effort to block Florida's participation in the program, which would replace the existing FCAT system. Lawmakers are already filing bills to derail or delay implementation of Common Core.
Legislative leaders and Scott say they support Common Core, but appear to be looking for some middle ground. Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, want Florida to leave a consortium of states developing testing for the Common Core.
But withdrawing from the consortium raises new questions about how Florida would develop its own Common Core tests and how quickly that could be done.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush remains a strong proponent of the Common Core standards.
Medicaid expansion
Although he has been a longstanding critic of health care reform, Scott surprised lawmakers last spring by endorsing the expansion of Medicaid under the health care law — as long as the federal government paid for the expansion.
The Senate passed an expansion plan in the 2013 session but it died in the House, where leaders have voiced skepticism about the long-term cost and the ability of the federal government to finance the program.
But with pressure from the health care industry, business leaders and other groups, Medicaid expansion — which could bring some $51 billion to the state and cover 1 million uninsured Floridians — will likely return as an issue. Legislative leaders have signaled that they would be more willing to embrace a limited expansion, but so far the federal government has not shown a willingness to let Florida modify the program.
Florida's $132 billion state pension fund for public employees had a good year. And it currently ranks near the top of major government pension funds in meeting a projected 86 percent of its future obligations.
Nonetheless, Weatherford is expected to use his final year as the House leader to end the traditional pension plan for new employees. He would move the new state workers, school employees and other public workers into a 401(k)-style pension plan. Workers currently in the pension system would not be impacted.
Weatherford notes the state sets aside some $500 million each year for its unfunded liability, which is money that could be used for other state programs. This year, the House backed Weatherford's plan but it came up a few votes short in the Senate. The key to Weatherford's success will remain in the Senate.
With a growing number of well-financed interests invested in the issue, gambling legislation is always a heavy lift for the Legislature. Election-year pressure increases the difficulty in making major changes in Florida's gambling laws.
But efforts continue to do something. Out-of-state groups see Florida as a perfect location for at least one "destination" casino operation, bringing a full range of Las Vegas-style gambling to the state. A gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe is scheduled to end in 2015, prompting some to promote a new deal before the next election.
Others say Florida's gambling regulations are due for an overhaul in a gaming landscape that keeps changing. Lawmakers have ordered a comprehensive study of gambling in the state that will provide a basis for debate in the upcoming session.
But because of the myriad of interests involved — including the big casino companies, local horse and dog tracks and the Seminoles — the best bet is against a sweeping deal. Any move seen as an expansion of gambling will find limited support in the House and face opposition from traditional gambling foes, including the Disney interests.
Self-defense law
With the outcome of the George Zimmerman trial — in which he was acquitted in the shooting of a black teenager — some lawmakers are calling for a serious revision of Florida's 2005 "stand your ground" self-defense law.
Following Trayvon Martin's killing, Scott convened a task force to look at the law, but the panel did not recommend any major changes and none were achieved this year. But Senate Democratic leader Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale has re-filed legislation that would prevent individuals from "unreasonably escalating" a violent conflict and then claiming self-defense. The bill would also prevent a self-defense shield for individuals who chased someone down or left a safe place.
The bill also requires local law enforcement agencies to develop guidelines on neighborhood watch programs.
The House has agreed to hold hearings on the self-defense law, although the chairman of the panel has said he doesn't support any changes to it.

Zimmerman goes into hiding to put divorce on hold

George Zimmerman laughs in court (Fox News / screen grab)
George Zimmerman was allowed to keep his gun after being recently acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin, but not even that can protect him from the divorce that his wife is demanding — so the former neighborhood watchman has reportedly gone into hiding.
On Sunday, a lawyer representing Zimmerman’s wife, Shellie, told TMZ that they had been trying to track him down to serve divorce papers for the last week. The lawyer said that Zimmerman had been laying low ever since he allegedly threatened his wife with a gun and punched his father-in-law in the nose earlier this month.
According to TMZ, Zimmerman’s family had been in contact with him, but they insisted that they did not know where he was.

Following the confrontation with his wife and father-in-law, Lake Mary Police Chief Steve Bracknell agreed in an email exchange that Zimmerman was “a Sandy Hook waiting to happen,” referring to last year’s massacre at an elementary school in Connecticut. And Mark O’Mara, the attorney who got him off the hook for killing Trayvon Martin, said that he wouldno longer represent Zimmerman.
Before going into hiding, Zimmerman had been regularly turning up in the news.
He allegedly helped “rescue a family” from a burning vehicle, was caught speeding twice and he took photographs at the factory that made the gun that he used to kill Martin.

Why mayors should rule the world- TED TALKS

it often seems like federal-level politicians care more about creating gridlock than solving the world's problems. So who's actually getting bold things done? City mayors. Political theorist Benjamin Barber suggests: Let's try giving them more control over global policy. Barber shows how these "urban homeboys" are solving pressing problems on their own turf -- and maybe in the world.

Florida Couple, Had Children, So The Could Sexualy Abuse Them As Toddlers

 A 25-year-old former marine officer faces 10 years to life in prison for sexually abusing his own daughter and the daughter of a girlfriend, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
The paper reports Jonathan Adleta planned to have "daddy-daughter sex" after his wife became pregnant with his daughter in 2008. He reportedly said that he would only marry Sara Adleta, 29, if she let him have sex with the child. When the couple had a son, the woman was reportedly expected to have sex with the boy.
Prosecutors and witnesses reportedly described the disturbing exploitation the couple's toddlers endured, which included both parents sexually abusing the children even after the two divorced.
According to the paper, the FBI began investigating the couple after they received a tip that Sara Adleta was communicating with a man in North Carolina who was previously arrested for having sex with a child.
When testifying, Sara Adleta reportedly said she complied with her husband's desire because she loved him and she needed his financial security.
After the couple divorced, Jonathan Adleta's new girlfriend, 23-year-old Samantha Bryant, also reportedly complied with his desire to abuse her daughter. Bryant was later charged with assaulting her daughter and allowing Jonathan Adleta to sexually abuse the child.
Both parents have been convicted in the case. Sara Adleta, a former University of Central Florida student, pleaded guilty to two charges of sexual exploitation of a minor and faces 15-30 years in prison, according to the paper.

A jury found Jonathan Adleta guilty of two child-sex charges. He faces 10 years to life in prison.
You may have not seen this on Fox News, if the couple had been gay, there would be lynch mobs all over Fox News.

I suspect this kind of child abuse, is more prevalent, than most may think. When I was a teenager, my female cousin, by marriage, was repeatedly raped by her stepfather, when she was a pre teen,while her mother watched, her mother later told my step uncle, she had no choice, because, she did not want to lose her husband and financial stability he brought. My step uncle removed both his daughter and son, from the house by firearm and never reported the instance, to the authorities, instead he placed his children in his house with his wife, to endure abuse and outright slavery, without my step uncles knowledge. I have heard similar stories, from friends and acquaintances, over the years, with the act, never being reported, just swept under the rug.    

Obamacare Myths

We’ve been batting down bogus claims about the Affordable Care Act for years, since 2009, when legislation was still in the debate stage. But they’ve been increasing in intensity in recent months as we approach Oct. 1, the date the insurance exchanges will be open for business for those buying their own insurance, mainly with the help of federal subsidies.
So, more than three years after our last health-care-whoppers piece (published just before the law was signed in 2010), we’re giving readers a rundown of the top claims.
Some have been around for years, and others are relatively new. Most touch on three topics: jobs, premium costs and medical care. For instance:
  • Republicans have made the overblown claim that the law is a job-killer, but experts predict a small impact on mainly low-wage jobs. The Republican National Committee says 8.2 million part-timers can’t find full-time work “partly” due to the law. That’s the total number of part-time workers who want full-time jobs, and there’s no evidence from official jobs figures that the law has had an impact.
  • Proponents say premiums will go down, while opponents say they’ll go up. In general, employer plans won’t be affected much, and a price change for individuals seeking their own insurance will vary from person to person. Obama claimed that all of the uninsured would see lower premiums than what they could get now (before accounting for federal subsidies), but that’s not the case.
  • Critics continue to make scary claims about the government coming between you and your doctor, but the law doesn’t set up a government-run system. If anything, the law comes between you and your insurance company, forbidding them from capping your coverage or charging you more based on health status. Meanwhile, Obama can’t promise you can keep your plan. Employers are free to switch coverage, just as they were before.
And there’s more. Since 2010, we’ve been debunking the persistent claim that members of Congress are somehow exempt from the law. They’re not. The administration’s recent decision to give exchanges leeway in how they verify suspect applications for subsidies sparked the false claim that Americans can list what they’d like for their incomes and won’t face verification.
Beyond these more reasonable topics, we’ve seen our share of far-fetched viral messages about microchips being implanted in patients and forced home inspections by the government. Rest assured. Neither is true.


The law is long, complicated and still being implemented. Many of the claims we’ve seen — and expect to see for some time to come — center on the impact on employers (or employees), premium rates and medical decisions.
Claim: 8.2 million Americans can’t find full-time work partly due to Obamacare. says: False.
This assertion from the Republican National Committee echoes others conservative claims that the law is hindering part-timers from finding full-time jobs. But the RNC’s 8.2 million figure was the total number in June of part-time workers in the U.S. seeking full-time work — what the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls “part-time for economic reasons” — and there’s no evidence from BLS numbers that the law has had an impact on such workers. There were more in this “part-time for economic reasons” category in March 2010, when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law (9.1 million). The latest figure, from August, is 7.9 million.
stressThe law requires employers with 50 or more full-time employees to provide insurance or pay a fine. (This provision was delayed until 2015.) Full-time is defined as 30 hours per week. These details have fueled Republican claims that the law will cause — or is causing — employers to reduce their employees’ hours to get under the 30-hour/50-employee thresholds. It’s certainly possible that some employers will try to get by with fewer workers, or fewer worker-hours. And some among millions of part-timers seeking full-time work may have had their hours cut. But we can’t say how many that would be, and neither can the RNC.
To be sure, there have been plenty of news reports of employers, particularly those, like retail stores or restaurants, with low-wage employees, saying they’re concerned and uncertain about the impact of the law, and they might cut hours or workers on their payrolls. We can’t predict what companies might do once the employer requirements take effect.
While the BLS numbers don’t show an impact on part-time workers seeking full-time work, there is some anecdotal evidence of employers cutting the hours of part-time workers to get or keep them under a 30-hour-a-week limit. The Washington Post, for instance, wrote about the state of Virginia implementing such a cap on the hours of part-timers, like adjunct faculty at Northern Virginia Community College. And other colleges have instituted such limits, according to press reports. These employers have not indicated in the news reports whether they would be hiring additional workers, or increasing the hours of others, to fill in the gaps.

Claim: The law is a job-killer. says: Overblown.
It’s true nonpartisan economic analyses have estimated a “small” loss of mainly low-wage jobs because of the law. But as one expert told us, there hasn’t been much analysis of this impact of the law because, he believes, economists think the impact will be minimal. Still, Republicans have continued to push the idea that the law will have a significant effect on jobs.obamacarejobsatrisk
This claim made our “Whoppers of 2011” list, and it has continued to be pushed in various forms — with the latest being the claims about part-time work. Mainly, the “job-killer” claims severely distort a 2010 nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office report that said the law would have a “small” impact on jobs. And that’s mainly from workers choosing to work less. For instance, some might work fewer hours if they receive subsidies to help them buy insurance, or those close to retirement may retire early, with some reassurance that they can buy insurance on their own.
The CBO report said this decrease in the amount of labor in the economy would amount to one-half of 1 percent, which Republicans quickly translated into a loss of actual jobs. But, as we said, CBO clearly explained this would come about “primarily by reducing the amount of labor that workers choose to supply.”
CBO did say, however, that the employer requirements to provide insurance or pay a fine “will probably cause some employers to respond by hiring fewer low-wage workers.” But they may hire more part-time or seasonal workers instead. CBO hasn’t put a number on these jobs.
Other experts we’ve consulted have predicted a minimal impact. The Lewin Group, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group that operates independently of the company, estimated a 150,000 to 300,000 job loss of minimum wage or near minimum wage positions. Not included is an unknown increase in jobs in health care and insurance. Altogether, Lewin’s then-senior vice president told us there would be a “small net job loss.”
In July, claims about the law killing jobs took the form of a “mis-tweet” from several congressional Republicans, who wrongly tweeted “74% of small businesses will fire workers, cut hours under #Obamacare.” But the online, opt-in survey from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which opposes the law, found no more than 13 percent of the small businesses that responded said that. During the presidential campaign, Republican nominee Mitt Romney cited an earlier survey from the group to bolster his claims.
The Whoppers of 2011,” Dec. 20, 2011

Claim: Premiums are going up because of the law. Premiums are going down because of the law. says: It depends.
Politicians have been making these claims since before the law was passed — it was the first item on our list of whoppers back in 2010. Both sides have a penchant for misrepresenting studies on the matter to support their point. Our short answer — “it depends” — may be unsatisfactory to readers, but whether you’ll pay more or less than you would have without the law depends on your circumstances.
Are you uninsured and have a preexisting condition? You’ll likely pay less than you would have otherwise. Are you uninsured but young and healthy? You’ll likely pay more (without accounting for any subsidies you may receive). Are you insured through your employer? You likely won’t see much change either way.trendchart2
Let’s start with employer-sponsored insurance. Employer-sponsored premiums did go up slightly due to the law from 2010 to 2011 (a 1 percent to 3 percent increase, according to experts), because of added benefits, such as coverage for dependents up to age 26, free preventive care and an increase in caps on coverage. Overall, premiums for family plans jumped 9 percent that year, with the bulk of that due to higher medical costs, not, as critics claimed, the health care law. Since then, premium growth has been 4 percent on average for 2012 and 2013, modest growth rates historically.
Note that premiums have been going up for years and will continue to do so — with or without the health care law. When Democrats make claims about premiums going down, they’re talking about premiums growing at a lower rate than they would have otherwise.
The growth in national health spending (that’s spending from the government, businesses and individuals) from 2009 to 2011 also has been at around 4 percent, the lowest level since such spending was first measured in 1960. President Obama has boasted that the ACA has helped make this happen. It could be playing some role, with an emphasis on new payment models, but experts say the cause is mainly the down economy. A Kaiser Family Foundation studysaid the economy was responsible for 77 percent of the slow growth rate, and that rate is expected to pick up as the economy recovers.
Now, the big question mark is for those who buy their own insurance. We’ll know more in October, when the state and federal exchanges have published rates and are accepting applications. But even then, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to make generalizations. Some folks will pay more, some will pay less, than what they would have otherwise. Many who had purchased on the individual market in the past will get more generous benefits — which will be good news for some and irrelevant to others. And the vast majority buying their own exchange plans — 80 percent, according to the CBO — will receive subsidies that bring their total out-of-pocket costs down.
These plans sold to individuals can no longer charge more based on health status or gender, but they can vary premiums based on geography, age and tobacco use. Republicans have warned of a “rate shock” in this market, with the young and healthy being subject to higher premiums if the market is flooded with older and less healthy policyholders. A RAND study, published in August and sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, estimated there would be “no widespread trend toward sharply higher prices in the individual market,” in the words of the lead author. But rates would likely vary from state to state.
The research group looked at 10 states and the U.S. overall, estimating no premium change for the U.S. at large and five states, a decline in two states, and an increase up to 43 percent in three states, not accounting for tax credits. The study, which held age, tobacco use and actuarial value (level of coverage) constant in comparisons, said average out-of-pocket costs would be unchanged or decline for all states once tax credits are factored in.
But that’s one estimate from an economic model, with noted “limitations.” Says the RAND study: “Current data on nongroup premiums are limited, and there are many uncertainties about how individuals and insurers will respond to the complex policy changes introduced by the Affordable Care Act.” It cautions against “sweeping statements” about the impact on premiums, since rates will differ based on individual circumstances.
That brings us back to our short answer: It depends.

Claim: All of the uninsured will pay less on the exchanges than they could now on the individual market, even without federal subsidies. says: False.
President Obama made this claim at an Aug. 9 press conference, saying that beginning Oct. 1, the 15 percent of the population that’s uninsured would be able to “sign up for affordable quality health insurance at a significantly cheaper rate than what they can get right now on the individual market.” Obama went on to emphasize that that was before including federal subsidies. “And if even with lower premiums they still can’t afford it, we’re going to be able to provide them with a tax credit to help them buy it,” he added.
But even Obama’s secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, has acknowledged that young persons would likely pay more and older Americans would likely pay less on the insurance exchanges. As we explained, the reason is that the ACA changes how insurance companies can price these policies on the individual market — it forbids insurance companies from charging more for persons with preexisting conditions or based on gender, and limits them to charging older policyholders no more than three times what they charge to younger policyholders. Premiums can also vary based on geography and smoking — but smokers can only be charged 1.5 times the rate for nonsmokers.
There won’t be any super-cheap plans for the young and healthy, nor sky-high premiums for older folks or those with health conditions. (High-deductible catastrophic plans, however, will be available to those under 30, or older Americans with hardship exemptions. They can be purchased only without federal subsidies.) Some on the exchanges will pay less; some will pay more than what they could get now. Economist Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was a paid adviser to both the Obama administration and then-Gov. Mitt Romney’s administration on health care plans. Gruber told us a “small share” of the uninsured would pay higher premiums on the exchanges. “The president is right for the average uninsured person, but not for all uninsured people,” he said.
That’s before subsidies, of course. Only 10 percent of the uninsured earn too much to qualify for federal subsidies on the exchanges, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report. But Obama claimed they’d pay less even without the federal help.

Claim: 8.5 million Americans will receive rebates this year averaging about $100 each because of the health care law. says: Misleading.
President Obama has stretched the facts in making this boast about the law’s impact. The rebates are real, but most of them will go to companies offering insurance to their workers. Only those who buy their own insurance will get a rebate check directly. And the $100 is an average per family, not per person.
cashbackThe law requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on health costs — as opposed to spending on administration and marketing, and, of course, profit. If companies don’t meet the 80/20 ratio, they have to issue a rebate to consumers. Large group plans have to meet an 85/15 ratio. In 2012 and again in 2013 rebates were sent out, but Obama has pitched this as Americans receiving checks in the mail. This year, in a July 18 speech, he talked about “millions of Americans” opening letters from their insurers and being “pleasantly surprised with a check. In 2012, 13 million rebates went out, in all 50 states. Another 8.5 [million] rebates are being sent out this summer, averaging around 100 bucks each.”
But most of the money went directly to employers who provided the policies to their workers. Of the 8.5 million benefiting from this provision in 2013, 2.7 million are on the individual market, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, meaning the rebate would go directly to them. In 2012, 4 million of the 13 million benefiting were on the individual market. Those with employer plans could still see a benefit, as savings are passed along in some way to them. But, as the Department of Labor, which spells out in its guidanceon the matter, says, employers who pay part of the premium are entitled to part of the rebate.

 Medical Care

Claim: You won’t be able to choose your own doctor.
Claim: The government will be between you and your doctor. says: False.
These claims are variations on the fear that the government will be taking over health care — choosing your doctor, telling him or her what treatment to administer, etc. But the law doesn’t create a government-run system, as we’ve said many times. It actually greatly expands business for private insurance, by about 12 million new customers, according toCongressional Budget Office estimates. And individuals will choose their own doctors, just as they do now.
These type of fear-mongering claims appear to have quieted a bit in 2013 — along with the more extreme death-panel-type hysteria — but they’re still percolating. A TV ad this summer from the conservative Americans for Prosperity featured a mom named Julie, gently asking, “If we can’t pick our own doctor, how do I know my family’s going to get the care they need?” And: “Can I really trust the folks in Washington with my family’s health care?”
docpatientIt turns out, Julie doesn’t really mean that she might not be able to select her doctor herself. Part of the group’s support for the claim is the small net decline, as estimated by the CBO, in those who get insurance through their employer, a drop of 7 million people by 2018. (A total of 158 million are expected to have employer-sponsored coverage that year.) The CBO has said that those losing coverage would mainly be low-wage workers who could get subsidies to buy insurance on the exchanges. And, certainly, there’s a chance the doctor a worker had been seeing won’t be in the network of providers on a new plan. Some exchange policies could keep prices low by limiting those networks. But no one will choose policyholders’ doctors for them. They simply won’t be guaranteed that a new plan would have the same network of doctors, just as there’s no guarantee of that now (more on this in a minute).
As for the government-coming-between-you-and-your-doctor claim, the law’s regulatory provisions are more like putting the government between you and your insurance company — and in a way that brings added benefits to consumers. The law says insurers can’t have caps on coverage, turn down customers based on preexisting conditions (or charge them more), and can’t spend more than 15 percent or 20 percent on non-medical-related costs (see Obama’s rebate claim above).
Republicans also have attacked the Independent Payment Advisory Board as some kind of rationing board. But the IPAB — which is made up of medical professionals, health care experts, economists and consumer representatives — is charged with slowing the rate of growth of Medicare spending, and limited in how it can go about doing that. The law says the board’s proposals “shall not include any recommendation to ration health care, raise revenues or Medicare beneficiary premiums … increase Medicare beneficiary cost sharing (including deductibles, coinsurance, and co-payments), or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria.”

Claim: If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Misleading.
Obama has repeatedly made this claim, and the White House continues to use the line on its website. The law doesn’t force Americans to pick new plans or new doctors, but the president simply can’t make this promise to everyone. There’s no guarantee that your employer won’t switch plans, just as companies could have done before the law. And if you switch jobs, your new work-based coverage might not have your doctor as an in-network provider, either.
As we mentioned above, some employees won’t have an offer of insurance and will look for a new plan on the exchanges. Some small businesses could drop their current plans and join the exchanges, too. Grocery store chain Trader Joe’s, for instance, announced that it will direct its part-time workers (less than 30 hours per week) to the exchanges for health coverage and provide them with $500 to help purchase it, as of Jan. 1, 2014. The company, which has provided coverage to such workers, said “many crew members should be able to obtain health care coverage at very little, if any, net cost.”

 And There’s More …
Claim: Those applying for federal subsidies can lie about their income without facing verification. says: False.
The Obama administration gave the insurance exchanges some leeway in how they verify income eligibility for federal subsidies in the first year. That prompted Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt to claim that the administration had “waived the income verification requirement” and that applicants can “say what you think your income’s going to be with no way to verify that.” Not true. The exchanges will compare applications with federal information — such as previous tax returns — and ask for additional information if the person has no previous tax filings.
Here’s where the administration’s new rule comes in: For applications in which stated income is more than 10 percent below what’s listed in government data, current income information isn’t available, and the additional information from the applicants is insufficient, a sample of those applications will face further requirements in 2014. Initially, all of these suspect applications were to face more scrutiny, but the exchanges will only have to verify a sample for the first year of operation.
So, if you’re the gambling type, you do have better odds of lying about your income and still getting a subsidy. At least for a while. But all income claims will be checked against 2014 tax filings, and the IRS can recoup at least some of the money. There are also IRS perjury penalties, and civil monetary penalties spelled out in the Affordable Care Act for providing fraudulent information.

Claim: Congress is exempt from the law. says: False.
Several versions of this claim have been circulating since before the Affordable Care Act was passed. But no matter how many different ways the critics spin it, Congress isn’t exempt from the law. In fact, members and their staffs face additional requirements that other Americans don’t. Beginning in 2014, they can no longer get insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, as they and other federal employees have done. Instead, they are required to get insurance through the insurance exchanges.capitoldome
This “exempt” nonsense first percolated before that provision was added to the law through a Republican amendment. Before the amendment, the legislation said that Congress — as well as federal employees, employees of large companies, and those who get insurance through Medicare or Medicaid — wouldn’t be eligible for the exchanges, which were created by the law for those buying their own insurance and small businesses. But that certainly didn’t make Congress “exempt” — lawmakers were treated like any other worker with employer-provided health insurance. They were required to have coverage or face a penalty.
The claim has persisted even after the provision requiring Congress to get insurance from the exchanges became part of the final law. Fast forward to spring 2013, and the assertionsurfaced again when there was concern among lawmakers that the transition to exchange plans — particularly the transfer of the federal contribution toward premiums — wouldn’t go very smoothly. Politico published a piece on April 24 on lawmakers talking about changing the exchange requirement because of this. The headline on the story: “Lawmakers, aides may get Obamacare exemption.”
On Aug. 7, the Office of Personnel Management, which administers the FEHB Program,issued a proposed rule saying that the federal government could continue to make contributions toward the premiums of lawmakers and their staffs on the exchanges. The federal government has long made such premium contributions, as other employers do for their employees. OPM said the contribution couldn’t be more than what it is under the FEHB Program. That ruling, perhaps predictably, sparked new — and still bogus — claims from Republicans of Congress being “exempt” from the law.