TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced plans Wednesday to expand Medicaid coverage to roughly 900,000 more people through a mechanism created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA).
Scott has been a vocal critic of PPACA.
Scott said he will ask the state Legislature to expand the state’s Medicaid program under a bill that would expire in three years, after which expansion would require renewed legislative support.
Scott is the seventh Republican governor so far to propose expanding the taxpayer-funded health insurance program.
Scott said he would support the expansion as long as the federal government pays 100 percent of the increased costs, which is the deal offered to states by the Obama administration for the first three years. After that, the federal government said it would pay 90 percent of the cost for the additional enrollees.
The governor said he gained new perspective after his mother’s death last year, calling his decision to support the PPACA provision a “compassionate, common sense step forward,” and not a “white flag of surrender to government-run health care.”
“Before I ever dreamed of standing here today as governor of this great state, I was a strong advocate for better ways to improve health care than the government-run approach taken in the President’s health care law. I believe in a different approach. But, regardless of what I — or anyone else — believes, a Supreme Court decision and a presidential election made the President’s health care mandates the law of the land,” Scott said at a news conference.
The governor said he still worries that the president’s plan could “lead to less patient choice, worse care, and higher costs” but he can’t “in good conscience deny the uninsured access to care.” Scott stressed he won’t simply deny new Medicaid recipients health insurance after the three years are up, but said he will spend that time measuring how the expansion impacts health care costs, quality and access.
Scott, a former chief executive officer of the HCA hospital chain, entered politics in 2009 running national cable TV commercials criticizing the president’s plan. Florida led the way in challenging the PPACA in a lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Scott also made the rounds on conservative talk shows repeatedly expressing concern that expanding Medicaid would put too much of a strain on Florida taxpayers.
At one point, he said the expansion would cost $26 billion over the next decade, but the state’s health care agency slashed its estimate to $3 billion after backlash from lawmakers over how the initial figure was calculated. After Obama was re-elected, Scott toned down his rhetoric, signaling he wanted to work with federal health officials. He even flew to Washington to meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last month to discuss the expansion.
Florida lawmakers must still sign off on Scott’s decision, and the Legislature doesn’t meet until next month.
“I am personally skeptical that this inflexible law will improve the quality of health care in our state and ensure our long-term financial stability,” Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford said.
Angry conservatives said Scott owes his support base an explanation.