The price of the win-at-all-costs political gamesmanship on display in Tallahassee last year, during the lead-up to the launch of the Obamacare health insurance exchanges, is now becoming clear.
Some elected state officials wanted the Affordable Care Act to fail so spectacularly that they were willing to cause real harm to Florida families by intentionally driving up the cost of health insurance.
Perhaps they imagined the general public wouldn't connect them to their bureaucratic maneuvers. They were wrong.
The Legislature, in Senate Bill 1842, suspended the insurance commissioner's ability to negotiate and reject health insurance rate increases.
Meanwhile, the Office of Insurance Regulation allowed the division of the Florida Obamacare insurance business into 67 micro districts, a step that resulted in the removal of any competition from 21 counties. A single state insurer, Florida Blue, enjoyed a monopoly in those 21 counties.
Finally, legislators ordered letters sent to consumers specifically telling them that Obamacare was responsible for the mess.
Clever political gamesmanship. But at what cost? This month, we are learning.
As The Post's Laura Green reported, Floridians who bought plans through HealthCare.gov last year will see their rates climb by an average of 13 percent. Humana, one of the most widely selected carriers locally, projected rate increases of 14 percent on average.
Florida Blue announced increases of an average 17.6 percent statewide. A few carriers, like Molina Health, plan to drop rates. But they are the exception.
Florida Blue, glossing over the fact that it lacked any competitors in much of the state, blamed a tendency for older, sicker consumers to pick their familiar and trusted brand. This despite the fact that the federal government set aside $10 billion to protect insurers from excess costs in 2014.
Without an empowered insurance commissioner, the company's analysis stands unquestioned.
Compare Florida consumers' circumstance to that of Californians'. California runs its own state exchange, Covered California, which is governed by a board. The board uses a competitive bidding process to extract the best deals from insurers. Covered California divided the enormous state into just 19 pricing regions.
So what kind of rate increases will Californians see next year? A comparatively modest 4.2 percent. And unlike Florida, no region in California will have fewer than two choices of carriers.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who was once the elected insurance commissioner of Florida, rightly puts the blame for the state's high rates where it belongs. On July 31, on the U.S. Senate floor, Nelson spoke of the damage done:
"Florida has -- or maybe I should say had -- some of the strongest laws governing insurance, allowing the commissioner to not only approve but reject rate increases which were improper," Nelson said. "However, as a result of this state law, the commissioner can no longer say yes or no -- only OK. As a Floridian, this is unconscionable."
When Florida consumers start receiving next year's higher insurance bills, they should be crystal clear on who is really to blame.
Senate Bill 1842, the bill that enabled unfettered insurance rate increases, was signed by Gov. Rick Scott. A yes vote came from 25 state senators led by Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and 78 House members, led by House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.
Clever strategic games are fine for football and chess. But played with such life-and-death issues as access to health care, they are flat-out wrong.