Florida Governor’s Estimate For Expanding Medicaid Suddenly Drops By $23 Billion

Earlier this week, reports emerged that Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has been citing inaccurate cost estimates to justify his continued refusal to expand Medicaid under Obamacare — inflating the estimated cost of expanding the program by a staggering 2,500 percent — even though he knows the numbers are wrong.

After the news broke, the governor’s office initially defended their disputed $26 billion cost estimate. But late Wednesday night, Florida released a revised estimate — a much more modest $3 billion. As the Miami Herald points out, the revised figure is more accurate because, unlike the $26 billion number that Scott used to tout, it takes into account the full amount that the federal government will reimburse states for choosing to expand Medicaid:

Why the enormous difference? The new estimate includes the federal matching funds promised in the health care law to pay for the Medicaid expansion. It also exlcudes costs associated with people who are now eligible for Medicaid but for one reason or another have not enrolled. The revised estimate is more in line with costs estimated by outside groups, and could soften attacks that the expansion is too costly for Florida to afford. With some other changes, the estimate climbs to about $5 billion.

Scott had used the eye-popping $26 billion estimate to make a case against the health care law both on Sunday in a Tampa Bay Times editorial and again on Monday following a meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

But the dollar-figure was quickly debunked as based on severely suspect assumptions and was panned by Democrats, health care advocates and even a prominent Republican lawmaker.

Scott is one of the most vocal critics of President Obama’s landmark health reform law, and he has repeatedly refused to accept Obamacare’s optional expansion of the Medicaid program because he says it’s too expensive.

Now that Scott’s grounds for claiming Florida can’t afford to extend health coverage to its low-income residents have been proven false, perhaps the governor will reconsider his hard line stance. Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsurance in the nation, and expanding Medicaid could provide health care to an additional one million low-income people in the state.

So far, just two Republican governors have agreed to expand their states’ Medicaid programs, while anti-Obamacare leaders like Scott continue to resist doing anything to cooperate with health reform.