By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Earlier this year, Gov. Rick Scott said during the announcement of his budget priorities for the year that he supported expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in Florida.
After that, Scott did little to make the expansion happen and the Florida Legislature quickly turned down the federal money—leaving almost a million Floridians without health insurance.
Now, Scott is doing even less and has stopped voicing his support for Medicaid expansion when asked about it.
The Tampa Bay Times reported last week that:
Gov. Rick Scott refused Wednesday to say whether he still supports expanding Medicaid eligibility to more uninsured and poor Floridians, an issue Democrats are certain to stress during his re-election campaign next year.
Appearing at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute on Wednesday, Scott for the second time this week publicly dodged questions about his position on expanding Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor. Though Scott surprised many observers by endorsing expansion earlier this year, he also was criticized for failing to press House Republicans to accept the plan.
On Wednesday, Scott responded to a question about Medicaid expansion by talking about people whose private insurance plans were canceled due to new coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act.
“Everybody is worried about the politics of the law,” he said. “Here’s my concern: It’s going to impact the cost of health care, the quality of health care and access to health care. Have a great day.”
He turned away as a reporter asked about the 800,000 Floridians who are too poor to qualify for subsidized insurance under the federal law, yet can’t qualify for Medicaid.
Asked by reporters in Tampa on Wednesday whether he still thinks the state should accept the federal funding available … to expand the program, Scott didn’t answer and criticized the law instead.
Scott said 300,000 Floridians will have their health insurance policies canceled at the end of this year — even though the insurer involved, Florida Blue, has announced there will be no cancellations.
“Here’s our concern about the president’s health care law,” he said. “We have 300,000 people in our state that have been told they are going to lose their insurance at the end of the year. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know if they’re going to get it. We don’t know what the costs are going to be.
Scott gave essentially the same answer in Tallahassee on Tuesday, saying policies will be canceled and, “That’s the biggest issue we’re dealing with right now.”
Asked Wednesday whether Scott still favors Medicaid expansion, spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said, “Last year the governor laid out what he supported.”
As the 2014 election nears, Medicaid expansion in Florida has gotten increasingly less likely.
A few weeks ago, there were reports that the Florida Legislature was “secretly” working out a deal to accept the billions in federal funds that would pay for the expansion. However, lawmakers denied the closed-door brokering was taking place.
In fact, most experts said the likelihood of Medicaid expansion in Florida remains slim.
If Florida doesn’t expand Medicaid, many of the state’s poorest residents will be left out of the Affordable Care Act, which was created to expand insurance to almost everyone who doesn’t currently have health insurance.
On top of that, the law also phases out funding for hospitals that treat people without insurance. If the state does not accept the Medicaid dollars, it could level a serious financial blow to many of the states’ hospitals.
Most recently, a report found that since Florida taxpayers will be paying taxes toward Medicaid expansion around the country, not accepting these federal funds means taxpayers will see a $5 billion net loss in the state.
However, GOP leaders in the Florida House remain opposed to expanding the money.
Republicans in the Florida Senate have stood behind a plan created by Republican state Sen. Joe Negron that accepts the federal funds. Under his plan, the money would be spent to buy private insurance for everyone that qualifies for Medicaid under the expansion.
In the Florida House, however, Republican members have said even that plan is too uncertain. GOP members have said they don’t trust any plan tied to the Affordable Care Act, which they have said is a fundamentally flawed law.