Richard Stark: Florida Will Ultimately Expand Medicaid, Have State Health Insurance Exchanges
Around the State
Birthplace: New York, N.Y.
Education: University of Denver, Bachelor of Arts in Political Science
Occupation: Financial services
Previous Public Office: None
Family: Wife, two children
Did you know? Attended the first day of Woodstock in 1969: "I was more like Bill Clinton in those days; I was not inhaling anything at the time!”
Richard Stark's election to the House and appointment to one of its most important committees crowns over a decade of activism on behalf of universal health care, and he says it's just a matter of time before Florida fully embraces it by expanding Medicaid and establishing state insurance exchanges.
“I don’t know that it’s going to happen this session, but more and more people are seeing that this makes sense to do,” the new Democratic representative and 12-year insurance lobbyist from Weston tells Sunshine State News. “It’s my personal opinion that Florida will eventually expand Medicaid and that the Legislature will ultimately make a recommendation that somewhere within the future that Florida goes from a federal exchange, to a hybrid, and then to the state exchange.”
Stark says it was his passion for health care reform, along with the Democrats’ historic achievement in passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, or “Obamacare”), that finally pushed him to run for office.
“My father was always involved in politics in upstate New York, even though he never ran for office,” he explains. “He taught me that if you ever want to get something done, you need to get involved in the political process. I’m one of those get-into-it types of people.”
Not that he hasn’t been involved in his local community. Stark’s one of Weston's "founding fathers," having sat on the committee that pushed for that city’s incorporation, no mean accomplishment considering that Money Magazine has consistently ranked it Florida’s “best place to live.”
Among other community accomplishments, he’s a founding member of Weston’s soccer league and the city’s conservative synagogue, B'nai Aviv.
Given his expertise – “I hate to use the word ‘expertise,’ because I feel like the learning process is always going on” – it’s not surprising that Stark’s been appointed to the House Select Committee on PPACA. He also sits on the Regulatory Affairs Committee and the subcommittees on Finance and Tax, K-12, and Veteran and Military Affairs. Naturally, the several bills he’s filed, or will be filing, align with these subjects.
The one that’s likely to cause the most controversy would amend Florida’s “Patient's Bill of Rights” so as to repeal the section added last year by the Legislature, which forbids doctors from asking their patients if they own firearms.
“I’m not anti-Second Amendment, but it just doesn’t make sense to me that we would have a law against this,” he says. “Take the Sandy Hook [Elementary School shooting]: supposedly this fella’s mother was seeing a psychiatrist; you wouldn’t want that man to advise her to lock up her guns?”
Another bill of his is nearly identical to one filed by fellow freshman Mark Danish, which would require all gas stations in Florida to provide signs at each of their pumps containing the phone number of the station; a disabled person could call the store number, and if two or more employees are on duty, one of them would have to come out and pour gas for that disabled person.
Stark’s version requires the sticker to contain the hours that two attendants will be available to provide assistance, and (unlike Danish’s) already has a Senate co-sponsor.
HB 127 (“Meetings of District School Boards”) would require district school boards to hold quarterly meetings “after school hours,” though Stark says he will be offering amendments to specify that they should take place in the evening. The purpose of the measure is to allow parents, students, and teachers to attend the meetings (which currently typically take place in the morning or early afternoon). It was actually proposed to him by high school students themselves, it being the winning proposal of several submitted by students from all across Broward County.
Finally, HB 129 (“Disability Awareness”) would require school boards to establish and implement a curriculum for a two-week long “Disability History and Awareness” course of instruction.
Two more bills of his are coming down the pipeline. One is a PPO (preferred provider organization) reform measure which addresses what he says is a common situation: patients checking into a hospital where most of the specialists they see (doctors, surgeons, etc.) are network providers, but a few may not be, and they end up getting billed unexpectedly for the latter.
“My bill makes sure that everyone who bills you for your hospital stay has to give you the discounted rate if you’ve done your due diligence to make sure they were in-network providers,” he explains.
He will also be introducing what he’s tentatively calling a “DNA Bill,” which protects consumers from being discriminated against, on the basis of the genetic code, whenever they purchase life, dental, disability, long-term care, accident and other types of insurance.
Federal law already prohibits regular health insurance providers from discriminating on the basis of genetics. Stark says a senator has already agreed to co-sponsor his bill.
Reach Eric Giunta at email@example.com or at (954) 235-9116.