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20-02-2013 | Article

Florida governor reverses on Medicaid expansion

Abstract

News release

medwireNews: Known for being one of the largest states that were most critical of the Obama administration's healthcare proposals, Florida - with Governor Rick Scott at its helm - has decided to pull a U-turn and accept federal funding to expand its Medicaid program.

The move came as a surprise, as Scott has been a vocal opponent of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ever since he became governor and joined other states in suing the administration to prevent the law's passage. Despite the Supreme Court ruling that the ACA was constitutional, Scott remained adamant until now that the state would not expand its Medicaid program under the ACA, which pledges government financial assistance to cover the expansion entirely for the first 3 years.

"While the federal government is committed to paying 100% of the cost, I cannot in good conscience deny Floridians that needed access to healthcare," Scott said at a news conference in Florida. "We will support a 3-year expansion of the Medicaid program under the new healthcare law as long as the federal government meets their commitment to pay 100% of the cost during that time."

The apparently hasty decision puts the tally of Republican governors who have agreed to Medicaid expansion at seven. In the past few months, Republican governors of Arizona and Ohio agreed to expand Medicaid under the ACA, which proved unpopular among fellow party members.

It is suspected that Florida's third highest uninsurance rate in the country might have played into Scott's reconsideration, which must still pass the state's legislature approval process. Yet what conclusively settled Scott's decision was the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services granting Florida a waiver to privatize Medicaid, which could equate to over 1 million Floridians enrolling in a private managed care plan.

"Expanding access to Medicaid services for 3 years is a compassionate, common sense step forward. It is not the end of our work to improve health care," Scott said. "And, it is not a white flag of surrender to government-run health care."

In that vein, Scott emphasized that Florida would take no part in creating a health exchange - leaving the onus of setting up an online health insurance marketplace entirely on the government. Florida's decision not take any ownership of their exchange by agreeing to at least partnering with the government follows the footsteps of other states that also have a republican governor and large population, such as Texas and Pennsylvania.

By Peter Sergo, medwireNews Reporter