Almost 5 years ago, I left Florida shortly before the 2010 election in which Rick Scott was elected governor. One of the promises he ran on, which he briefly reversed in 2013, was to block Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Since then, Florida’s legislature, which is firmly in the control of conservative Republicans, has refused to accept Medicaid expansion despite Rick Scott briefly changing his mind before going back again.
From the time the Affordable Care Act was passed until now, Florida has used a “low-income pool” fund that is about to see an end of matching federal funds in June. Needless to say, Rick Scott is angry and instead of laying the blame at the feet of the Florida Legislature where it rightfully belongs, he’s blaming President Obama and the federal government.
From the Orlando Sentinel:
At a meeting on Wednesday, Scott urged Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to keep federal funds flowing for a “Low Income Pool,” a $2.2 billion program that uses local tax funds to draw down $1.3 billion in federal funding.
The state has relied on the pool to avoid expanding Medicaid, which House Republicans in Tallahassee adamantly refuse to approve.
After the meeting, HHS officials said they had warned Scott since July that the low-income pool would not be extended in its present form beyond June. They said that “pool funding should not pay for costs that would be covered in a Medicaid expansion.”
The Obama administration wants all states to accept Medicaid expansion — including federal payments that would cover 90 percent or more of the cost. But Florida and some other Republican-run states oppose the new law, saying it will leave them with higher costs. (Source)
Rick Scott now finds himself trapped by the ideology of the Tea Party, an angry wave he rode into office back when he was first elected in 2010. He could go the Florida Legislature and beg them to put partisan ideology aside for the sake of the citizens of Florida, but who I am kidding? This is Governor Rick Scott who is likely angling for a potential VP spot on a 2016 Republican presidential ticket, and like most other politicians, he’s willing to put his future political aspirations and loyalty to the Republican Party over the interests of his constituents.
So what does he do instead? Blame Washington and President Obama, of course. Florida could have accepted Medicaid expansion which would have paid for itself for the first few years, and then 90% of costs after that. However, these are Tea Party Republicans we’re talking about; they would probably stop breathing if President Obama came out in favor of oxygen or start playing in traffic if he said to look both ways before crossing the street.
Florida isn’t the only state under Republican control to refuse Medicaid expansion. Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas and others have followed suit with governors like Rick Perry, Mary Fallin and Bobby Jindal claiming that they can’t afford the 10% of costs that they would eventually shoulder for the program. Rick Scott even went so far as to threaten to sue the Obama administration earlier this year, and in 2011, Florida was one of 26 states that joined a suit against the Affordable Care Act. However, these same states manage to give out huge tax breaks to corporations which would more than cover these costs, which shows they’re more interested in keeping their big business friends and donors happy than they are with the health of their constituents.
Rick Scott could push back against the legislature and possibly take actions to circumvent them, but he’ll put his political future with the Republican Party first – and blame President Obama all the way.
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