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

By: Jim Turner | Posted: February 1, 2013 3:55 AM

Kathleen Sebelius and Rick Scott

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Gov. Rick Scott | Credit: thinkprogress.org

Gov. Rick Scott isn’t 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 doesn’t 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 it’s 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 can’t 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 state’s 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 government’s 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 state’s 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 Florida’s unfair health care system that leaves millions behind. Governor Scott’s 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 Florida’s poor and disabled residents depend on.

“Though he touts himself as a champion for Florida’s 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 governor’s proposal, however, leaves struggling safety-net hospitals to absorb the steep costs of providing care to uninsured families. The reality of Governor Scott’s 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 weren’t 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 can’t do any of this. That’s 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 jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

Comments (7)

Gail Toffey
10:10AM FEB 5TH 2013
Sadly, Scott's self interests and his own medical plan come before any considerations for the average Floridian. We knew of his ethical shortcomings before he was even elected, so I guess the state got what it wanted. Unfortunate for those who truly need medical help and cannot afford it in this wealthy conservative state.
3:26PM FEB 1ST 2013
This great Gov is highly experienced in the field of fleecing healthcare. Until you actually take the time to research the ACA & Medicaid expansion, you cannot really hold an opinion. Those who need medicaid are actually working poor in service industry. Those on welfare make up 2% of the population. In Fla, under our great Gov, an adult without children will never qualify for Medicaid. Talk about death panels. Why so very without empathy as to not give a rat's about people who are sick & SUFFERING & on a 2-3 yr waiting list for Medicaid, including little children. Well, except those 18 or up with no children, we know what they get. Nothing. I am 55, retired RN, I am sickened by the amt of callous me-me-me ill-informed "humans" there are in our country. If you get info from Fox BTW, you should know that Rupert just bought shares in a Muslim Islamic broadcasting corp., and his second owner buddy at Fox is Saudi Prince Alaweed. Yeah, real Patriots listening to whatever these non-Americans are shoveling out.
1:08PM FEB 1ST 2013
I looked Gaetz and Weatherford up, they are both Republicans. Looks like we have two RINOs on our hands.
5:52PM FEB 1ST 2013
You had to "look" them up? - what didn't you understand about the article's "R" in it's noting of "Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel" . . . . don't you know even your own party's leadership in the Legislature . . . . go ahead, drive these right of moderate Republicans (and all others like them) out of "your" party . . . . that ought to leave you with a few tens of thousands of partisan Tea Party types left in your new far right forgettable party . . . . absolutely . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
1:05PM FEB 1ST 2013
I am not impressed with Sen. Gaetz and Sen. Weatherford. We have a great Governor who is highly experienced in the field of healthcare. They should stand down and follow his lead. He is the duly elected LEADER of FL. Let him lead.
2:48PM FEB 1ST 2013
Yes, Rick Scott and healthcare leadership go together, like . . . . well, medicare and billing fraud . . . . over $2 billion once you add in all the resulting lawsuits . . . .

Yes, when you're pressured to resign as Chairman and CEO after investigators from the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Health and Human Services start serving search warrants on your facilities . . . . well, that's real leadership . . . . and takes real healthcare experience . . . .

Pathetic . . .
Gary stein, MPH
10:18AM FEB 1ST 2013
I would be more than happy to sit down (on a couch or elsewhere) and talk with Sen. Gaetz from the point of view of one who could and has been affected.

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