Budget Showed Progress But Too Many People Still Wait for Help
Massive savings for utility ratepayers due to defeat of risky out-of-state natural-gas exploration and production bill; but Florida falls further behind on help for family caregivers.
Florida consumers who get their electrical power from investor-owned utilities will save an estimated $3.75 billion to $22.5 billion over the next five to 30 years due to defeat of legislation that would have allowed some Florida electric companies to charge ratepayers in advance for risky out-of-state natural-gas fracking projects. The legislation would have also allowed the electric utility companies to earn a return of up to 11.5% - 11.6% on funds used for those projects even though rate payers (rather than the utilities’ shareholders) would have provided the funds and even if the projects produced no or little natural gas.
AARP advocates testified that investor-owned electric utility companies should have no problem finding enough natural gas on the open market to be able to provide sufficient power to meet consumer demand.
“This was a victory for AARP members and other consumers,” said Jeff Johnson, AARP’s Florida state president. “Florida senators and representatives reported being inundated with calls after AARP informed its members about this legislation. The Speaker of the House, Richard Corcoran, defused the bills advancement through the House of Representatives, and, ultimately, other state legislators came to understand that these bills were a bad deal for Floridians.”
Legislators also increased the number of “slots”, or authorizations, that allow frail or disabled people to receive services from a range of home- and community-based services, (including Community Care for the Elderly, Home Care for the Elderly or services through the state’s Medicaid managed long-term care initiative). However, AARP advocates estimate that the additional authorizations will be insufficient to reduce the growing waiting list of families and frail older Floridians waiting for services to help them remain in their homes and communities.
“Again, as we said last year, any increase in funding to help family caregivers is welcome,” said Jeff Johnson, AARP’s Florida state director. “But Florida is falling further and further behind in supporting family caregivers. For thousands of these frail and disabled neighbors, one more year’s delay will mean that help is available too late. It’s way past time to pick up the pace.”
Across Florida, more than 60,000 Floridians currently are on state waiting lists for at least one of a series of services that help families keep their loved ones at home or in their communities.
Legislation that AARP Florida supported, but did not pass includes:
- Prohibited health insurers or HMOs from retroactively denying coverage (with some exceptions) for health procedures after approving them (SB 102, HB 579).
- Prohibited health insurers or HMOs from removing (with some exceptions) a prescription drug from coverage during a policy year (CS/CS/SB 182, HB 95).
- Prohibited health insurers from requiring consumers to first try a particular drug to treat a condition before using another preferable drug, sometimes called “Fail First” protocols (SB 530, HB 877).