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Rick Scott: Still Too Many Questions Remain on Federal Health Care Law

January 30, 2013 - 6:00pm

Gov. Rick Scott isnt ready to embrace the federal health care law, at least not yet.

In releasing his $74.2 billion spending plan and agenda for 2013 on Thursday, Scott proposes the state cover individuals now eligible for Medicaid coverage but not currently on the health care rolls, as required by the Affordable Care Act.

But Scott said the state still doesnt have enough information about the optional expansion of the state Medicaid program to offer any firm direction for legislators who are now studying the law known as Obamacare that the Republican and business community in Tallahassee have long fought.

In his comments upon releasing the budget, Scott on Thursday said. Today is not the day for that decision.

I need to understand, for the benefits of all Floridians, how its going to impact the quality of health care in the state, access to health care in the state and cost to health care in the state, said Scott, a former health care executive.

And I cant make a decision until I get those answers.

Scott remains optimistic about his Jan. 7 sit-down with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as he awaits the states two waiver requests, with one expected by Feb. 7, he said.

Their action on these two waiver requests will affect our current Medicaid program and play an important role in how we move forward, Scott said.

I cannot overstate our continued concern with the federal governments ability to pay for new Medicaid recipients over the lifetime of the Medicaid program. The fiscal chaos in D.C. is another major factor in the Medicaid expansion decision facing Florida.

The health care advocacy group Florida CHAIN, which has questioned the states estimated fiscal impact numbers for the Affordable Care Act, was quick to criticize Scott for not embracing the federal law.

Governor Scott missed a crucial opportunity to finally invest in health care to create jobs and address Floridas unfair health care system that leaves millions behind. Governor Scotts 2013-2014 proposed budget reflects his ongoing trend of putting politics before the health care needs of Floridians, Florida CHAIN stated in a release.

Once again, Governor Scott is proposing to shortchange hospitals and providers and weaken the already bare-bones coverage that Floridas poor and disabled residents depend on.

Though he touts himself as a champion for Floridas families, there was no indication in his proposal that he will accept the $27 billion being offered by the federal government to broaden Medicaid coverage to 1.2 million hard-working, uninsured Floridians. Medicaid expansion will save lives, create more than 65,000 health care jobs and help grow our still-stagnant economy. The governors proposal, however, leaves struggling safety-net hospitals to absorb the steep costs of providing care to uninsured families. The reality of Governor Scotts proposed budget is that it would raise health care costs for everyone by sending our tax dollars to other states. Governor Scott has turned his back on those who are still being forced to choose between health care costs and groceries.

Florida spent about $21 billion on Medicaid in the past year, of which the federal government covers nearly 60 percent.

Scott has been pilloried by Florida CHAIN and other advocates of the federal law for using Agency for Health Care Administration numbers that estimated Florida could be hit with up to $26 billion in additional charges over the next decade as the new law takes hold over the next five years.

The agency had earlier estimated the cost at $8 billion.

On Wednesday, Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, noted they werent waiting for the governor as they had already set up committees on the role Florida should play in the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

The federal government gave us an all-or-nothing proposal, Weatherford said. They said you have to expand for all populations or you cant do any of this. Thats put all legislatures and all governments in a pretty good box.

Gaetz, R-Niceville, said his focus was on those below the poverty line and not about adults who choose to sit on the couch.

Reach Jim Turner at or at (772) 215-9889.

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