By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
The state of Florida will finally begin to consider implementation of a federal law that has been in place since 2010 — the Affordable Care Act.
Following the presidential election this month, Republican state lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott have accepted that there is no chance the law will be repealed anytime soon.
Soon after the law passed in 2010, Scott believed that the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn the Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional. He told reporters and Floridians that he would not implement the mandated state health insurance exchanges in Florida or accept the millions of dollars that are supposed to go to health programs in the state because he said the law was clearly unconstitutional.
In fact, Scott went as far as to say that the Affordable Care Act was not “the law of the land,” meaning it was not his job as a governor to follow and implement that law.
But after the U.S. Supreme court upheld the law, Scott was sure that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would win the election and he and a Republican Congress would throw out the Affordable Care Act.
But, of course, that didn’t happen either. So now, Florida lawmakers, along with Scott, are in a mad rush to implement the law by the deadlines set up two years ago.
Step one for Scott has been to negotiate with the federal government on the timeline the elements.
The Republican governor requested a meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss the issue.
Scott has recently softened his staunch opposition to the federal health care law, but said he needs more information before making a decision. Scott had previously stated he would not go along with any parts of the health care overhaul that the state controls.
The Florida Legislature was also guilty of turning away millions of federal dollars allocated through the law. State lawmakers notably turned away money aimed at helping at-risk women and children because there was a policy in the GOP-controlled state House to turn away Affordable Care Act money because they deemed the law unconstitutional.
However, state lawmakers have also been forced to shift. New Florida Senate President Don Gaetz is forming a committee to study implementation of the health care law.
Here are some other changes to the committee structure Gaetz is proposing:
- Merging the appropriations subcommittees on higher education and K-12 education into one education subcommittee.
- A new Gaming Committee
- A new Ethics and Elections Committee. Previously, there was an Rules Subcommittee on Ethics and Elections.
- Renaming the Health Regulation committee Health Policy.
All states have a few weeks to prove to the federal government that they are on their way to implementing a state health insurance exchange.
Scott began his political career speaking out against the health care law and tried to stop it before the law was passed in 2010. He has been among the nation’s most vehement opponents of the law – up until now.