— Gov. Rick Scott announced plans Wednesday to expand Medicaid coverage to roughly 900,000 more people under the federal health overhaul, a surprise decision from the vocal critic of President Barack Obama's plan.
Scott said he will ask the Legislature to expand the program under a bill that would expire in three years, after which it would require renewed legislative support. He's the seventh Republican governor so far to propose expanding the taxpayer-funded health insurance program.
Scott said he would support the expansion as long as the federal government pays 100 percent of the increased costs, which is the deal offered to states by the Obama administration for the first three years. After that, the federal government said it would pay 90 percent of the cost for the additional enrollees.
The governor said he gained new perspective after his mother's death last year, calling his decision to support a key provision of the Affordable Care Act a "compassionate, common sense step forward," and not a "white flag of surrender to government-run healthcare."
"Before I ever dreamed of standing here today as governor of this great state, I was a strong advocate for better ways to improve healthcare than the government-run approach taken in the President's healthcare law. I believe in a different approach. But, regardless of what I — or anyone else — believes, a Supreme Court decision and a presidential election made the President's healthcare mandates the law of the land," Scott said at a news conference.
The governor said he still worries that the president's plan could "lead to less patient choice, worse care, and higher costs" but he can't "in good conscience deny the uninsured access to care." Scott stressed he won't simply deny new Medicaid recipients health insurance after the three years are up, but said he will spend that time measuring how the expansion impacts healthcare costs, quality and access.