Gov. Rick Scott, who probably understands the American healthcare industry as well as anyone in Washington, will dive into next week's Senate debates on the Republicans' proposed bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Scott said Friday he will travel to the nation's capital "to provide input on how we can make the bill better for Floridians." The governor will announce details of his trip as soon as his plans are finalized.
Said Scott in a prepared statement, “I would like to thank Sen. Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans for working to eliminate the high taxes, fees and unreasonable mandates of Obamacare. I also want to thank President Trump for his commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare. I have been carefully reviewing the bill and next week, I will be traveling to Washington to meet with congressional leaders to provide input on how we can make the bill better for Floridians."
Sources close to President Trump have said he has often sought Gov. Scott's counsel on healthcare matters.
In 1987, at age 34, Scott co-founded Columbia Hospital Corporation with two business partners; this merged with Hospital Corporation of America in 1989, to form Columbia/HCA and eventually became the largest private for-profit health care company in the U.S.
In his statement, Scott outlined how congressional leaders could improve the bill for Floridians.
“First, all states must be treated equitably," he said. "Florida taxpayers deserve the same treatment as every other state under the Medicaid program. Second, every American, including those with pre-existing conditions, should have the ability to buy any kind of insurance they want. This will drive down costs and give people the flexibility and power to determine what they want to buy.
“There seems to be a lot of people advocating for more government and higher costs in Washington and not a lot of people advocating on behalf of taxpayers. I look forward to traveling to Washington to fight for Florida families and ensure there is a health care proposal that dismantles the terrible, expensive mess of Obamacare. Let’s remember, costs have skyrocketed under Obamacare and we need a new health care policy that allows patients to have access to quality healthcare at an affordable price.”
The Senate version of the GOP bill -- which Democrats already oppose because it was discussed behind closed doors -- was released Thursday. If it passes the Senate, it still has to survive the House and tweaks to satisfy both chambers before it makes it to President Trump’s desk.
A spokesman in Sen. Marco Rubio's office told Sunshine State News the Senate version of the bill would reduce taxes imposed under Obamacare and give states flexibility to make changes to Medicaid -- work requirements, for example. Certainly Scott and other governors are pushing hard for more flexibility.
One problem for Florida is, the bill would reduce federal spending on Medicaid. Right now Florida spends $26.4 billion on health care -- that's nearly one-third of the state budget. Much of that is for Medicaid. The federal share pays for health care for the poor, elderly, children and pregnant women who qualify, and it can be as high as 60 percent.
Should Congress permanently reduce federal Medicaid funds, Florida would have to choose from three difficult options: trim Medicaid services, raise taxes or cut other services to make up what it's lost.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith.