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Politics

Mike Fasano: Senior Republican to Push for Medicaid Expansion, Strengthening Citizens Insurance

January 9, 2013 - 6:00pm

Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey

Date of Birth: June 11, 1958
Birthplace: Long Island, N.Y.
Residence: New Port Richey
Education:St. Petersburg Junior College, 1987-1990
Occupation: Director of Public Affairs - Florida Hospital, Tampa Bay Region
Previous Public Office(s): Elected to the Florida Senate 2002-2012, elected to the House of Representatives 1994-2002
Did you know?Dropped out of high school when he was 15, in order to work to support himself and his widowed mother; earned his GED when he was 28Pasco County's Mike Fasano is not your typical "freshman" representative. For starters, he's been serving in the Florida Legislature, continuously, for 18 years, making him one of that body's most senior members. He's also one of its most ideologically maverick.

With 100 percent ratings from the National Rifle Association and Florida Right to Life, and an average score of 87 percent from the American Conservative Union, Fasanos no liberal. But dont expect him to fall in lockstep with the conservative agenda of House Republican leadership, at least not when he believes free-market principles will have a detrimental effect on his constituents.

A prime example: Floridas home insurance crisis.

While Republican legislators struggle to find the most prudent way to progressively depopulate Citizens Property Insurance, the states taxpayer-subsidized program for homeowners who cannot afford to purchase property insurance from private providers, Fasano insists the market is incapable of addressing the needs of too many of Floridas residents.

In this case, you have to have government intervention, he tells Sunshine State News. People have to have affordable property insurance; the suggestions that are being brought out by Tallahassee, to force everyone out of the only insurance company thats available to these citizens, thats not going to help families afford to stay in their homes.

The debate over the proper role of government in the provision of property insurance is no abstraction for Fasano. The New Port Richey Republican represents the western portion of Pasco County, which contains the states highest number of Citizens Insurance owners.

Its also the most liberal portion of the otherwise Republican-leaning county. Fasano says his district includes more registered Democrats than Republicans, and went for Barack Obama in the last two presidential elections.

The population is very moderate, not hard-right conservative, Fasano tells the News. In many ways, the district is a miniature version of the state as a whole.

Asked why his constituents should not be left at the mercy of market forces, Fasano placed the blame squarely on companies like Allstate and Nationwide, which over the years have decided itisn'tprofitable to insure homes in regions they designate as high-risk.

The private companies dont want to take the risk any longer; they dont want to write policies in these areas, he says. And if that means that government is going to have to be a bit more involved, then so be it. We dont want people losing their homes.

His criticism of Republican leadership notwithstanding, Fasanos received several important committee placements for the 2013 session, including chairmanship of the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee. Fasano says he will use his position to find out why several executive branch agencies have neglected to implement state laws through the rule-making process.

His other assignments include the committees on Health and Human Services and State Affairs, and the subcommittees on Health Care Appropriations, Higher Education and Workforce, and Transportation and Economic Development.

Its certainly an honor to be a chair of any committee, as a freshman in either chamber, he says. But I would give up any of those assignments to sit on the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee.

Fasano tells the News hes convinced hewasn'tplaced on that subcommittee he sat in the Senates counterpart from 2010 to 2012 in retaliation for his outspokenness against leadership policy. And hes not afraid to name names.

Of course theres no question that the property insurance industry and Insurance and Banking chairman [Rep.] Bryan Nelson [R-Apopka] did not want me on that committee, so thats probably the reason I was not put on there, he opines.

Asked whether he believes Florida should operate its own health insurance exchanges, or leave it to the federal government, Fasano echoes the views expressed by every other legislator interviewed for this series so far.

I believe that Florida should run its own exchanges, he tells the News. I believe that anytime the federal government runs something they mess it up. Although I did not support Obamacare, if were going to be forced to do something, lets make sure that our state has as much input as possible as its being implemented.

Fasano goes out of his way to add that he believes Florida should participate in the laws optional Medicaid expansion to all non-elderly persons with income below 133 percent of the poverty level. He says the expansion will save the state money in the long term.

We have almost 3 million people in the state who do not have access to primary care because they either dont have health insurance or they lack enough of it, he tells the News. People who dont have insurance wait until theyre very, very ill before they go to the emergency room, and [the taxpayers] end up paying for them to get treated. Expanding Medicaid will save us hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars for years to come.

Fasano is counted a freshman because November 2012 marked the start of a new, potentially eight-year long, term of service in the House, where he served previously from 1994 to 2002, before taking up service in the Senate. (Florida law imposes term limits of eight consecutive years on legislators for any particular seat.)

He says hed give the same advice to his fellow incoming freshmenthat he gave to new representatives back in 2000, when he was House Majority Leader.

It does not matter what legislation you will pass this year, next year, or in years to come. Itdoesn'tmatter what appropriations you bring back home into your district. The most important thing is to take care of your constituents: returning that phone call, returning that email, and meeting with them whenever they seek your help.

If all members remember that, they will be extremely successful.

Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews.com or at (954) 235-9116.

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