On Tuesday, as he made “his re-election bid official” by opening his campaign account and turning-in paperwork to seek a second term in office, Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) hinted that he no longer supported expanding the state’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act to cover low-income Floridians. The long-time reform critic shocked the political world in February when he endorsed the effort, only to see the measure stall and eventually fail in the state House.
During a press availability today, Scott pointedly dodged a question about whether he would pursue federal funding for Medicaid expansion next month and instead highlighted the law’s rocky rollout:
You know the concern Floridians have today about what the federal government has done with the president’s health care law is 300,000 families or individuals been told they’re gonna lose their insurance at the end of the month. That’s the biggest issue we’re dealing with right now. On top of the fact you see the plans that have been proposed, they have high deductibles, so I’m concerned about cost, quality and access to health care, that’s our biggest problem right now.
Expanding Medicaid to 133 percent of the federal poverty line would in fact improve access for the state’s neediest residents. Florida is home to the country’s second-highest uninsured rate and the expected $51 billion in federal funding could have covered approximately 850,000 low-income Floridians in the next 10 years. But since the House rejected the plan, hundreds of thousands of state residents find themselves in the so-called Medicaid coverage gap — earning too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for premium tax credits available through the law’s insurance marketplaces — and will likely remain uninsured.
In February, Scott argued that his decision to expand Florida’s program for three years was inspired by “my Mom’s struggles raising five kids with very little money.” “No mother, or father, should despair over whether or not they can afford — or access — the healthcare their child needs,” he said. “While the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care.”
The federal government will pick up nearly all of the costs of Medicaid expansion (100 percent for the first three years, phasing down to 90 percent in 2020 and all subsequent years), paying nearly 93 percent the cost over the next nine years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Since Medicaid is financed through general tax revenue, Floridians will sill pay billions into the system without reaping the financial benefits of decreasing the ranks of the uninsured.