TALLAHASEE (January 21, 2015) — In response to recent news reports and statements issued by the office of embattled Florida Governor Rick Scott that suggest the governor is seeking to soon replace Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty—most likely with a political appointee who is friendlier to the insurance industry—AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, reaffirmed its support of the commissioner. As head of the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, McCarty is responsible for setting rates and regulating insurance companies throughout the state and, in recent months, has successfully lobbied several insurance companies to reduce premiums and adjust drug-pricing schedules to allow for greater patient access to costly HIV medications.
In a January 20 letter delivered to Governor Scott, AHF’s Southern Bureau Chief Michael Kahane wrote, “In a state with the third highest prevalence and incidence of HIV/AIDS in these United States, it remains imperative that we ensure affordable access to these life saving medications for both persons infected with HIV and those who might become infected. It is estimated that over 120,000 Floridians are living with HIV and as treatment is also prevention it serves as a highly effective public health tool as well. The actions of the Commissioner and his staff assured that these expenses did not fall to the State taxpayer to pay and also assured that public health in Florida would not suffer because of the restrictive actions the private insurance companies had instituted.”
McCarty, who has 26 years of state government experience across multiple administrations, has held the appointed position of commissioner for the Office of Insurance Regulation (formerly the Department of Insurance) since the office was created in 2003. In recent weeks, AHF applauded McCarty for working to secure agreements by major insurance companies Coventry Healthcare of Florida, Cigna, and Humana to restructure their drug formularies to make HIV medications more affordable to patients whose lives depend on them.
Florida law currently mandates that the insurance commissioner can only be appointed or removed by votes of the governor, chief financial officer and one other member of the Cabinet. In a letter sent yesterday to Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and published by the Miami Herald, newly re-elected Governor Scott wrote, “…I am hopeful that we can have a discussion at the upcoming Cabinet meeting about how to begin a search for new leadership at the Office of Insurance Regulation, the Office of Financial Regulation and the Department of Revenue so we can get fresh ideas into those Cabinet positions at the start of a second term.”
Governor Scott has been under increased scrutiny after forcing the December resignation of former Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Commissioner Gerald Bailey. While Scott initially said that Bailey’s resignation had been voluntary, the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald reported that Bailey—who alleges the governor’s aides routinely meddled in FDLE operations for political reasons—later accused Scott’s chief counsel, Pete Antonacci, of demanding on December 16 that he “retire or resign” and gave him three hours to pack up and vacate his office after nearly 30 years.
“Because of Commissioner McCarty’s willingness to stand up to powerful insurance companies, his success at bringing changes that help hard-working people in the state of Florida pay for their medical treatment and medications, including expensive HIV drugs they need to stay alive, has made him yet another target in Governor Scott’s political crosshairs,” said David Poole, Director of Legislative Affairs for AHF’s Southern Bureau. “We call upon the state’s CFO and other members of the Florida Cabinet to help the governor redirect his sights on restoring his credibility and focus on solving the real issues that matter to the people of Florida.”