The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

February 21, 2013

Florida governor changes plan on Obamacare provision

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Scott, a former CEO of the HCA hospital chain, entered politics in 2009 running national cable TV commercials criticizing the president's plan. Florida led the way in challenging the ACA in a lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Scott also made the rounds on conservative talk shows repeatedly expressing concern that expanding Medicaid would put too much of a strain on Florida taxpayers.

At one point, he said the expansion would cost $26 billion over the next decade, but the state's health care agency slashed its estimate to $3 billion after backlash from lawmakers over how the initial figure was calculated. After Obama was re-elected, Scott toned down his rhetoric, signaling he wanted to work with federal health officials. He even flew to Washington to meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last month to discuss the expansion.

Florida lawmakers must still sign off on Scott's decision, and the Legislature doesn't meet until next month.

"I am personally skeptical that this inflexible law will improve the quality of healthcare in our state and ensure our long-term financial stability," Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford said.

Angry conservatives said Scott owes his support base an explanation.

"I am flabbergasted. This is a guy who, before he was a candidate for governor, started an organization to fight 'Obamacare' in the expansion of medical entitlements. This is a guy who said it will never happen on his watch. Well, here it is," said Slade O'Brien, Florida director of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity.

Scott's announcement came hours after federal health officials said they plan to approve the state's longstanding request to privatize its Medicaid program statewide if they agree to beef up transparency and accountability measures. He said that decision signaled that feds were willing to work with the state to give them the flexibility they need.

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