Happytown: Rick Scott's Medicaid about-face 

Governor's announcement that he's expanding Medicaid surprises and disappoints his supporters

click to enlarge 1450887.jpg

$29,700

 

MAXIMUM ANNUAL WAGE FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR TO QUALIFY FOR MEDICAID IN FLORIDA IF MEDICAID EXPANSION GOES THROUGH

$22,350

 

MAXIMUM ANNUAL WAGE FOR A FAMILY of FOUR TO QUALIFY FOR MEDICAID CURRENTLY

 

1 MILLION

THE NUMBER OF FLORIDA'S FOUR MILLION UNINSURED THAT WILL BE ELIGIBLE FOR COVERAGE WITH MEDICAID EXPANSION

 

"Couldn't find a doctor this morning who accepts Medicaid to remove the knife from my back from [Gov. Rick Scott]."
– Tea party activist Henry Kelley via Twitter
Sources: Florida Current, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

 

A funny thing happened on the way to the 2014 gubernatorial stakes last week. Gov. Rick Scott, the same scary bald man who spent $5 million of his own money campaigning against Obamacare before he was even really running for governor, licked his lips and took to a Tallahassee podium to awkwardly change his tune completely on the matter. "A few months ago, my mother passed away. … Losing someone so close to you puts everything in a new perspective, especially big decisions," Scott began, before finessing some visible reluctance to doing exactly what he was about to do: endorse the Medicaid expansion central to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

"There are no perfect options," Scott continued. "To be clear, our options are either having Floridians pay to fund this program in other states while denying health care to our citizens, or using federal funding to help some of the poorest in our state with the Medicaid program as we explore other health care reforms."

Scott, clearly, would choose the latter, but only on his own terms, see.

The news came almost immediately on the heels of an announcement that the federal government had approved the second of two waivers that Scott had requested, effectively allowing Florida to shift the bulk of its suffering Medicaid poors into managed – or privatized – care. As the Miami Herald swiftly pointed out, that managed-care proposal is nothing more than an expansion upon a failed five-county pilot program already in place, wherein private interests are (surprise!) "scrimping on patient care and denying medical services to increase profits."

Doctors and health plans have run from the program due to the red tape, while "nearly half of the 200,000 patients enrolled in the pilot have been dropped from at least one plan." Add to that the fact that Scott has only agreed to the expansion for three years (not coincidentally, the federal government is picking up the tab for expansion for the first three years), and this doesn't seem like quite the philanthropic epiphany it's being made out to be. It is, in fact, a clusterfuck. Also, just like those teacher raises Scott promised, this has to be approved by the legislature, which is already conducting its own study on the proposed expansion.

"I think we should complete our trial before we make a verdict," Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, told the Associated Press.

But much of the reaction to Scott's big flip-flop was not quite as muted. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam called the governor's decision "extremely disappointing," joining a chorus of other small-government conservatives like Attorney General Pam Bondi, House Speaker Will Weatherford and even father figure Jeb Bush.

On the left, Democrats ranged from skeptical to elated about the Medicaid decision. Activist group Health Care for Florida Now released a statement saying that its pro-Obamacare coalition was "pleased" with the decision. Florida House Democratic leader Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, joked to the AP that, "We may invite [Scott] to come and join the party." Newly Democratic former (and possible future) governor Charlie Crist – no stranger to position-hopping himself – recoiled aloud to the Florida Current that he wasn't buying it.

"There's quite a metamorphosis going on and I don't think anyone is fooled by it," Crist said. "Maybe soon he'll become an advocate for high-speed rail. Who knows?"

Meanwhile, closer to home, the decision didn't seem to affect Universal Orlando's position on Obamacare. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the theme park will cease offering (limited) health insurance to its part-time employees, because the ACA mandates that said insurance actually be worth something, and the insurance currently proffered by Universal caps out its coverage at $5,000 (or, one night in the hospital) annually. So maybe Harry Potter changed Rick Scott's mind? Magical.

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