Florida’s fight against Obamacare isn’t over, no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court rules, Gov. Rick Scott reiterated in televised interviews on Monday.
And the Affordable Care Act should be one of the defining issues of this year’s presidential and other federal elections.
Scott released a statement Sunday declaring that Florida will join South Carolina and any other state that opts out of the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act and won't set up insurance exchanges, the optional measures of the law.
On Monday, appearing on Fox News and CNBC’s Squawk Box, Scott vowed that he and Attorney General Pam Bondi, who continued the state’s opposition to the law all the way to the Supreme Court, would make repealing the federal law a hallmark of their terms, before the costs of the federal program become a burden for Florida’s taxpayers once it kicks in in 2014.
“It’s not free,” Scott said on Fox News. “It’s $1.9 billion a year. You’re still paying it. Florida taxpayers are paying federal taxes and (the federal government is) only going to cover it for the first three years, then Florida taxpayers are going to be on the hook.”
Scott added that having to shift money in the state budget to cover increases in Medicaid will come at the expense of public education.
A Kaiser Family Foundation report estimates that the Act would expand coverage to nearly 1 million Floridians, extending coverage to anyone earning less than $14,500 a year. Currently, a parent earning less than $6,478 a year is covered by the state’s Medicaid program.
For Scott and Bondi electing officials such as presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and other like-minded congressional candidates this year should be the first step in halting the law.
Scott said getting people jobs, where they offer health care coverage, should be the priority of officials. Also, coverage should reward people for not smoking, exercising, eating right.
“If you want to fix the system, and you actually want to make sure that people get health care, then use the free market,” Scott said. “Make sure that individuals know what things cost. Make sure providers (are available and offer) more competition, which drives down the price.”
Bondi has called the law an “overreach” by the federal government.
Meanwhile, Democratic leaders in Florida's Legislature are urging Scott to implement the law and solve Florida’s health care crisis.
State Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, claims Scott is putting ideology over his constitutional obligations.
“Pitting health care reform against education funding is the same false argument Governor Scott attempted to use during the last legislative session," Rich, who is running for governor in 2014, stated in a release.
"This is the same governor that wanted to slash public education by 10 percent; the same governor that signed a budget raiding public universities’ reserves and operating funds by $300 million; the same governor who has no problem doling out hundreds of millions of unaccountable tax dollars to corporations to create phantom jobs; and the same governor that touts a dropping unemployment rate but ignores the real reason that rate is dropping – namely, that more Floridians are simply giving up because his ‘job-creating’ strategy has been just another empty promise.
“One of the greatest ironies in his decision to forestall any action until the presidential election is the fact that the candidate he’s supporting created an almost identical health care system while governor of Massachusetts – with the exception that his mandated penalties for failing to obtain 'Romneycare' were much higher than the new national plan.
Florida House Democratic Leader-designate Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, called Scott's push against Obamacare "a colossal abdication" of responsibility.
“Lost in Governor Scott’s insensitive statements in the wake of the ruling on the Affordable Care Act is an apparent failure to recognize that all Florida residents and businesses have an inherent stake in making sure there are good health outcomes for Floridians," Thurston stated in a release. "The status quo only continues a costly reliance on hospital emergency rooms for treatment to the poor, which wastes resources and drives up costs for other consumers and businesses.
“Governor Scott’s defiance renders him incapable of recognizing that health insurance exchanges authorized under the Affordable Care Act embrace free-market principles and promote personal responsibility by allowing consumers to comparison shop in purchasing health coverage.”
Reach Jim Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 215-9889.