Rick Scott: Sebelius Sit-Down ‘Hopefully Productive’
Around the State
No major announcements will be coming from the sit-down Monday between Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
But Scott, a former health-care executive who has been highly critical of the law known as “Obamacare,” said he got in his Florida-specific Medicaid waiver requests and additional talks may be on the way.
Scott said he told Sebelius that Florida needs to know how the new federal health-care law will impact families during what he described as a “hopefully productive” meeting in Washington, D.C.
With Florida reluctant to consider setting up a state-run health-care exchange for people and small businesses to shop for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, Scott said he also asked Sebelius to approve Medicaid waivers the state has sought for more control over Medicaid spending through managed-care organizations.
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“Growing government is not free. What we’re talking about is the doubling of the number of people on the Medicaid program -- the health care safety net for those who can’t afford it,” Scott said while meeting with reporters after the meeting.
“We already have 3.3 million people. We want to make sure that program, our existing program, works well. This is doubling. What I’m worried about is, I don’t want to promise somebody in our state something that eventually the state can’t afford. What I’m worried about is not the next three years, but the next six years, the next seven years. I’m going to take a long-term outlook in this regard.”
Florida Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, the Florida House Democratic Caucus policy chair, expressed concern that Scott may link the expansion of the Medicaid program “upon federal approval of a controversial Medicaid HMO-managed experiment.”
“The governor said today that he asked Secretary Sebelius to approve the HMO-style experiment,” Pafford stated in a release. “Surely the governor is aware that experts doubt whether taking the experiment statewide can produce long-term savings without sacrificing quality or access to health care in our state.
“Expansion of Florida’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act is deserving of discussion in its own right. While the governor continues to raise questions about the cost of Medicaid expansion, I believe Florida can save at least $1 billion in uncompensated care over a 10-year period by expanding the program. Further, Medicaid expansion in Florida, a big priority for Florida House Democratic Caucus members like myself, will prevent an estimated 5,680 deaths in Florida each year.”
Florida spent about $21 billion on Medicaid in the past year, of which the federal government covers nearly 60 percent.
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration has estimated that with 1.95 million more people becoming eligible for Medicaid and other state-subsidized health insurance programs, as the new law takes hold over the next five years, the state’s portion of the bill could approach $26 billion over the next decade. The agency had earlier estimated the cost at $8 billion.
The health care advocacy group Florida CHAIN has questioned the state’s numbers, noting that the state’s scenario requires everyone eligible signing up.
After the Scott-Sebelius meeting, Florida Reps. Tom Rooney, R-Punta Gorda, and Richard Nugent, R-Spring Hills, each issued statements expressing deep concerns over the rising cost estimates associated with the law.
“I applaud Governor Scott for taking a proactive approach toward making quality health care more affordable for all Floridians. For Florida, Obamacare means more federal and state government spending, higher taxes, increased premiums and lower quality of care -- we can't afford that,” Rooney stated in a release.
"Recent estimates have shown that the Medicaid mandates alone in Obamacare would cost Florida's taxpayers an additional $63.4 billion over 10 years. I know that Secretary Sebelius, as a former governor herself, understands that when the federal government passes costly mandates onto states, they can't just rack up debt like Washington has done -- they have to either raise taxes or cut vital programs to balance their budgets."
Nugent expressed concern that if Florida agreed to the Medicaid expansion it would be akin to writing “a blank check.”
“We don't know whether it will be $8 billion, $26 billion, or some other untold amount,” Nugent wrote Sebelius.
“And the American people at large will be expected to pay to pick up the federal government's portion of the yet-to-be-determined tab. Given our nation's out-of-control debt and deficit crisis, this sort of unknown spending commitment should worry all American taxpayers."
Reach Jim Turner at email@example.com or at (772) 215-9889.