Storified by Brian Empric· Mon, Feb 25 2013 11:42:45
Tia Mitchell and Steve Bousquet report that Florida GovernorRick Scott (a former health care executive at Columbia/HCA,@FLGovScott) has nevertheless decidedlast week to support expanding Medicaid, in “a significant policy reversal” and“a stunning about-face for a small-government Republican who was one of theloudest voices in an aggressive, and ultimately unsuccessful, legal strategy tokill a law he derided as ‘Obamacare.’”
“Whilethe federal government is committed to pay 100 percent of the cost, I cannot,in good conscience, deny Floridians the needed access to health care,” Scottsaid at a hastily called news conference at the Governor’s Mansion.
“Throughout his 2010 campaign for governor, as Scott sought support from teaparty members, he called the law a ‘job-killer’ that would hurt Florida.”
“Scott was careful to point out that the Republican-controlled FloridaLegislature will ultimately decide whether or not his proposal is worthimplementing. That is far from certain, particularly in the more partisanHouse.”
“Gov. Scott has made his decision and I certainly respect his thoughts,” saidHouse Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel (@willweatherford). “However, theFlorida Legislature will make the ultimate decision. I am personally skepticalthat this inflexible law will improve the quality of health care in our stateand ensure our long-term financial stability.”
“Scott said he would support an initial three-year expansion of Medicaid butmade clear he would not twist legislators’ arms to make it happen… Under thegovernor’s proposal, the Legislature — after three years — would have to voteto reauthorize the program to keep it going.”
“For weeks, Scott has said the debate on expanding Medicaid was directly tiedto the state’s application for waivers it needs to allow private companies torun the program.
“His endorsement of the expansion came hours after the federal governmentagreed to grant Florida a conditional waiver to privatize Medicaid statewidefor the state’s more than 3 million current recipient, more than half of whomare children or people under age 21.”
“Medicaid, a joint state-federal, government-run health care program, isvoluntary for states… The federal government covers about 55 percent of allMedicaid costs in Florida and covered about 68 percent in recent years withadditional stimulus funding.”
“The health care law tried to entice states to expand eligibility to Medicaidby raising income eligibility limits. To do so, the federal government agreedto fund 100 percent of the cost for states to expand Medicaid for three budgetyears. The federal government would then cover 95 percent of the costs in 2017,94 percent of the costs in 2018, 93 percent of the costs in 2019 and 90 percentof the costs in 2020 and beyond.”
Slade O’Brien,the state director of Americans for Prosperity-Florida, had the followingcomments after Governor Scott flip-flopped from his previous opposition toMedicaid expansion.
“GovernorScott’s announcement today is extremely disappointing. Scott had been anational leader in the fight against President Obama’s healthcare takeover. Hewas elected because of his principled conservative leadership againstObamaCare’s overreach, and led the charge, with Attorney General Pam Bondi, totake ObamaCare to the Supreme Court. But today he came out in support of theMedicaid expansion he vowed to oppose.”
Adam C. Smith (@adamsmithtimes),political editor at the Tampa Bay Times, blames Obama’s victory in Florida lastNovember, abysmal poll numbers, a “diminished” tea party and twenty months oflooming re-election campaigning for Governor Scott’s change of heart.
“Twoyears ago nobody would have dreamed that Rick Scott, the multimillionairepolitical outsider crusading against Obamacare, would end up heading into are-election campaign looking like the sort of pragmatic, moderate Republicantea party activists loathe… But that's where Scott has awkwardly positionedhimself — as another politician without clear convictions.”
“With his Medicaid decision this week, Scott officially and forever cast offhis image as a tea party standard-bearer.”
“Scott is the seventh Republican governor to support the federal-drivenexpansion of Medicaid. But Scott also is a special case, having spent millionsof dollars of his own fortune fighting the Affordable Care Act and launchinghis own campaign for governor attacking Obamacare at every opportunity.”
“This is going to be devastating for patients, devastating for taxpayers. It'sgoing to be the biggest job-killer ever," Scott said on Fox News after the U.S. Supreme Court upheldthe law (see video below). "We're not going to implement Obamacare inFlorida. We're not going to expand Medicaid, because we're going to do theright thing.”
“Statewide elections in Florida are usually won in the moderate middle, not thehard right or left, and Scott is now lunging as fast as he can toward thecenter.”
“Only 38 percent of Florida voters approved of Scott's performance in a JanuaryQuinnipiac poll. His recent policy reversals may have burned bridges with thelast sliver of the electorate that had been enthusiastic about him.”
The Associated Press reports that the Office of Economic and Demographic Researchmeets today in Tallahassee to discuss the cost of expanding Medicaid inFlorida.
“Medicaid expansion cost projections have varied widely, but the latestprojection would cost the state $3 billion over the next decade… Stateeconomists estimate about 80 percent of those eligible would apply.”