Rick Scott Is Turning Down Obama’s Medicaid Expansion. Is He Turning Off Florida Voters Too?

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Edward Linsmier / Getty Images

Florida Governor Rick Scott addresses the audience at the 29th annual NALEO conference June 22, 2012 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida

Florida Governor Rick Scott has never been one to let facts get in the way of conservative ideology, and recently he’s been trumpeting a lot of untruths about the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. He claims the law’s expansion of Medicaid coverage will cost Florida $1.9 billion a year; it’s actually closer to $500 million. Regardless, Scott is determined not to implement the health reform law, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld last month while still letting states opt out of its Medicaid expansion. And he’s not alone. At least four other conservative governors, mostly in the South, say their states won’t augment their Medicaid rolls, one of Obamacare’s key provisions for reaching near universal coverage.

You can cut these Tea Party warriors some slack and acknowledge, as my colleague Joe Klein has, that growing a “troubled program” like Medicaid, the joint federal-state system that gets health insurance to the nation’s poorest residents, may not be Obamacare’s smartest idea. The problem is that many of the states rejecting the Medicaid expansion – which the federal government would fund 100% for the first three years starting in 2014, and then gradually decrease to 90% by 2020 – don’t offer much in its stead. Texas, where Governor Rick Perry this week called Obamacare’s reforms “brazen intrusions,” has the nation’s highest rate of uninsured residents, 25%; Florida, at 21%, is right behind it. Never mind: Scott, Perry and their counterparts are standing firm, insisting, as Scott said recently, that “there is no way [we] can pay for” Obamacare.

(MORE: Emboldened by Walker’s Recall Win, Florida’s Rick Scott Goes to War on Voter Registration)

Scott’s doctrinaire defiance is politically risky for the Republican Party. Florida is arguably the most important swing state in November’s presidential election – and GOP candidate Mitt Romney trails President Obama, who won the Sunshine State in 2008, by four points there in the most recent Quinnipiac voter poll, 41% to 45%. The Republican National Convention will be held in Tampa, Fla., at the end of August; but Scott, whose dismal approval ratings make him one of the nation’s least popular governors, is widely considered a potential drag on the GOP’s fortunes. The big question now is whether his Obamacare position stands to make him a heavier electoral millstone or a conservative buoy for the Romney campaign.

Scott, a former health care corporation CEO, took office 18 months ago after spending $75 million of his own fortune on his 2010 campaign. Since then, his approval ratings have sunk as low as the 20s, largely because of a sense among Florida voters that he’s more concerned with building his dogmatic agenda – like refusing some $2 billion in federal high-speed rail funds or barring pediatricians from inquiring about guns in their patients’ homes, a Scott-backed law that a federal judge just struck down as unconstitutional – than he is with tending to the peninsula’s economic wreckage. Health care reform could turn out to be a consequential issue in Florida, not only in terms of insurance but also jobs, the one problem Scott pledged to fix during his campaign.

For the moment, Scott’s Obamacare stance looks to be on political terra firma. Polling on health care reform can swing depending on how the questions are asked, but in a SurveyUSA poll taken in Florida taken right after the Supreme Court ruling, half those surveyed disagreed with upholding Obamacare while only 39% agreed. More important, 54% of independent voters, a large and critical bloc in Florida, disagreed and only 36% agreed. Still, support nationwide for Obamacare has grown since the ruling, and presidential elections in Florida are unpredictable at best (see Y2K). Scott is rolling the dice – galvanizing the conservative base in the peninsula’s northern tier while angering liberal voters in more heavily populated South Florida.

(MORE: Obama’s Big Health Care Win: An Incredible Stroke of Luck)

Matthew Corrigan, who is political science chairman at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville and has published studies on health care reform, says that while he does not think Scott’s Obamacare stance “will have a huge impact in the aggregate, the Obama campaign will use it to get turnout up in places like Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, where people will be more likely to see it as uncaring toward middle-class and working-class voters.” There, Corrigan notes, the state’s high level of uninsured matters more, especially when Obamacare could add 1 million poor Floridians to the Medicaid rolls. So does the fact that the state has the nation’s second worst level of coverage for children and some of the nation’s most restrictive criteria for Medicaid eligibility.

A key question, of course, is how many of those 1 million people vote. But there are broader economic and jobs concerns. One of the reasons Scott’s refusal of high-speed rail money was so unpopular was that it could have funded as many as 30,000 jobs. The state is still recession-racked, its unemployment rate only recently dipped below 9%, and the project would have bolstered the sort of high-tech sector that Florida’s low-wage economy desperately needs.

Health care, meanwhile, is one rare high-wage industry that’s thriving in Florida, and the Medicaid expansion could bring more than $20 billion in federal funding between 2014 and 2024, according to the liberal Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy in Tallahassee. The FCFEP estimates it would create 65,000 private-sector jobs over six years. That cash and employment, argues FCFEP Director Karen Woodall, will just go to other states now. “The Governor is sticking to an ideological position,” says Woodall, “that’s not just harmful to uninsured people, but the economy as a whole.”

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Which may be partly why Republican leaders in Florida’s GOP-controlled state legislature are taking a more “rational and deliberative” approach, according to incoming state House Speaker Will Weatherford. He and incoming state Senate President Don Gaetz oppose Obamacare – but Gaetz recently said the legislature will be “tweezering through the [Supreme Court] opinion to determine what Florida’s options and obligations are,” while Weatherford has said the body has to “recognize that [Obamacare] has been upheld.” Other Florida GOP leaders have said they want the state to set up its own health insurance exchanges instead of using one established by the federal government, which will happen if Florida does nothing.

All the GOP lawmakers hope that they don’t have to confront the issue at all – that Republicans will win the White House and Congress and repeal Obamacare outright before the legislature’s next full session in March 2013. But they first have to get Romney elected – which may require winning Florida, which in turn may require Florida Republicans to show a more moderate face on Obamacare than Scott’s. They may also realize in the end that Scott’s own health care history – in 1997 he resigned as CEO of his corporation, Columbia/HCA, after it was busted for massive Medicare fraud (though he wasn’t charged personally) – doesn’t exactly give him moral authority in voters’ eyes. Per usual when it comes to Scott, the GOP will be doing risk control between now and November.

MORE: The Future of the Affordable Care Act: Uncertain, At Best

173 comments
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pfm6155
pfm6155

Dippo Rick is a disgrace to my state. The LOWEST ranked Governor in the entire country. I did not vote for the pig and truly feel he should be in prison for the LARGEST fraud with medicare to date.

He has ruined many of the State employees retirements by cutting a five year drop that once paid back 6.5%. Dippo changed that to now 1.3%. Is that really helping citizens or is that just screwing people over for the sake of screwing people that weren't awarded over $300m for patently illegal acts?

I can not wait for him to be gone! Turning off Floridians? I think there could be a lynching by the state's residents and hope it happens soon!

Stan S
Stan S

Any t party clown that was elected in 2010 may well be a one term clown.

superlogi
superlogi

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all have everything we ever wanted, regardless of its cost?  Unfortunately, that fantasy is fast approaching reality which, it appears, is getting more stark every day.  Rich Scott understands that Florida will not be able to keep up with the spending with a program that is threatening to bankrupt every state.  But, it's an uphill battle when the b00b in the White House, continuously preaches the fantasy.

Danny Cruz
Danny Cruz

 superlogi, question: what is the price of your wife's life when she is diagnosed with cancer, and her insurance policy drops her for having a pre existing condition, pregnancy... Before you answer with your Fox News talking points and make an ass of yourself, I implore you to do some research...

superlogi
superlogi

Wouldn't it be great if we could all have everything we ever wanted, regardless of the cost?  Well, that fantasy is fast approaching reality and Rich Scott understands the reality.  But, it's an uphill battle when the boob in the White House is preaching the fantasy.

sdeal
sdeal

Rick Scott defrauded the same United States Government  ONE POINT SEVEN BILLION DOLLARS  from MEDICAID and MEDICARE. He was made to pay back 1.7 BILLION DOLLARS to the same United States Government. Rick Scott is a CROOK and should be behind bars. Instead, he bought the Governors election in Florida. He is NOT a Floridian or knows nothing of Florida. He is here to rape pillage and plunder. AND he is building SOLANTIC medical clinics all over Florida. Guess who owns them? Oh yeah, he transferred ownership to his wife. He has his own agenda in Florida as far as medical so that all the money goes in his pockets. He is a CRIMINAL.

53underscore3
53underscore3

Minus the caps this is interesting information.

Paul Dirks
Paul Dirks

Has it ever occurred to you that you had earned it?

Al Shanker the late teacher' union president is reputed to have said:

I see that paulie has modified his claim about Al Shanker since learning that quote itself is likely apocryphal.

But he still hasn't come to the realization that claiming to know more about people than they know about themselves based on what he read at Briebart makes him an a$$hole.

formerlyjamesm
formerlyjamesm

The Republican/TP/Scott/Perry position is that illness and the indigent will just go away if they refuse to accept 100%/90% federal assistance and universal health care.  Does that make sense?  Maybe to health care scam artists such as Gov. Scott or strutting  ostriches such as Gov. Perry.  Send the state bills and dump the bodies on their door steps.  The citizens of those states will figure it out eventually.  Abdicating the insurance exchanges to the federal government just doesn't seem in keeping with states rights, does it?   

paulejb
paulejb

53_3,

"So you agree that the planet is warming."

----------------------------------------

Not in the last decade and a half, scooter.

 

http://www.canadafreepress.com... 

53underscore3
53underscore3

If you want to believe in gossip, that's your right, paulejb.

Carpe diem: Stupidity is yours for the taking!

StanleyCupp
StanleyCupp

 You had to go to the Daily Caller of the north to find your reply?

53underscore3
53underscore3

He's entitled to believe in goblins if he wants.  

SmilingSmartBlonde
SmilingSmartBlonde

Tim Padgett

That Survey USA poll seems suspicious to this Floridian.

However that statistic about  the uninsured in Florida that indicated that Florida had " 21% unisured" was not at all surprising.  21 % ! How many of those 21 % would agree with the austerity measures Rick Scott proposes? How many of them would want to see a reduction in certain types of jobs? How many support cutting the teacher jobs? Really? How many of the 21 % want to repeal Affordable Healthcare Act? As Mike Walace would say: "Come on!" Here in  Florida, if you are out or work you are out of luck. Unemployment compensation is absysmally low- really really low---  and unemployment is very high. Insurance is out of reach for many. Some people are living on the edge. Take a little trip to Titusville, FL  and you'll see the struggle firsthand.  Did you see the 60Minutes TV Special that featured the high number of homeless children in central Florida?  Now let's talk about the attitude that this population of stuggling people has towards Rick Scott. How could they have a good attitude? Yes, Rick Scott has alienated a chunk of the Florida population, for sure.  

We shall watch this election closely and see what happens as things heat and simmer down here in the sizzling swing state of Florida, the land of snowbird Yankee retirees.

53underscore3
53underscore3

paulejb:

"But it sure makes Global Warming Alarmists look foolish, since it was

hotter 2000 years ago before Barack Obama invented the internal

combustion engine."

===============================================================

Foot, meet mouth.

Pot, meet kettle.

etc. etc.

paulejb
paulejb

Paul Dirks,

"Since the issue of global warming is concerned..."

------------------------------------------

What global warming? I thought that you people were calling it climate change?

paulejb
paulejb

53_3,

"That is why I'm in the sciences and you're just a paid liar."

------------------------------------------

Really? Shoveling BS is a science now?

53underscore3
53underscore3

You've raised lying to the status of a rather twisted science, I'll agree with you there.

paulejb
paulejb

53_3,

I am not the one claiming to be a "scientist," 53. That is your line of BS.

53underscore3
53underscore3

I work in the sciences.  I know science and how it works.

On the other hand, you asked whether your skills (shoveling BS) can be elevated to a science: 

As I pointed out above, it'd have to be a rather twisted version...

Arimathean
Arimathean

I'm a Floridian, living in a deeply conservative area.  Even here, though, it is completely socially acceptable to refer to our governor as corrupt scum.  Conservatives and liberals alike hate the guy, as his approval rating will attest.

paulejb
paulejb

Arimathean,

Geez! The Democrat candidate must have been worse than Bernie Madoff since you Floridians elected Scott instead.

Arimathean
Arimathean

In the post-Tea-Party political climate, the Democrat candidate was something even worse: a former teacher.

I don't mean this as an insult to the Tea Party or teachers, I'm just observing that those in my profession have seemed to be more and more villified since 2009-2010.

Arimathean
Arimathean

Wow.

I've been respectful during this whole exchange, so I don't know where this condemnation is coming from.

I mean, you're 1) assuming I'm in the union and 2) assuming that I agree with this reputed quote.  Then comes the biggest leap: assuming that I got into teaching for a reason other than caring about the interests of my students.

I'm deeply offended that, without any information whatsoever, you would question my care for my students.  

I am finished with this conversation.

paulejb
paulejb

Arimathean,

Has it ever occurred to you that you had earned it?

Al Shanker the late teacher' union president is reputed to have said:

"When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children." 

Paul Dirks
Paul Dirks

Interestingly, Paulie's tree data shows a clear spike right WHERE the "industrial revolution" begins.

Don't tell him though.........

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix...

paulejb
paulejb

Paul Dirks,

But it sure makes Global Warming Alarmists look foolish, since it was hotter 2000 years ago before Barack Obama invented the internal combustion engine.

Paul Dirks
Paul Dirks

Concerning paulie's cooling....

The finding does not change our understanding of the warming power of carbon dioxide. In fact, it shows that human CO2 emissions have interrupted a long cooling period that would ultimately have delivered the next ice age. 

Your record indeed remains unblemished........

paulejb
paulejb

Paul Dirks,

"In fact, it shows that human CO2 emissions have interrupted a long cooling period that would ultimately have delivered the next ice age."

------------------------------------------------ 

It's a good thing then. So why all the alarm?

53underscore3
53underscore3

So you agree that the planet is warming. 

It's too soon to hope that a ray of light shone in paulejb's head.

It's more like a crack in his skull, I think...

53underscore3
53underscore3

The tree ring study was intended to corroborate other data, such as ice cores, palynological (pollen studies), O18 / O16 measurements, etc etc.

Temperate zones are notoriously sensitive to short term heating and cooling.  The poles are even more so (the Antarctic is thermally isolated by the ocean currents around it, though), and the tropics, much less so.

Even during the Mid-Cretaceous Thermal Maximum and the PETM the tropics weren't much warmer than they are today. It's the temperate zones and the poles that changed most.

paulejb
paulejb

filmnoia,

"Since he's a born coward and all around moral defective that will never happen."

-------------------------------------------------------

The more desperate the left becomes, the more venomous they become. That is the road to insanity, filmnoia.

filmnoia
filmnoia

Don't you see these are Willard's  character traits.

No, the road to insanity is when local Tea Party types portray the first family as a bunch of baboons or show Obama as an African witch doctor, so say nothing of the birthers and those that call him a Kenyan Marxist. Nice try. Keep grasping at straws.

paulejb
paulejb

filmnoia,

I very much doubt that Obama is a Kenyan Marxist. He is certainly a homegrown one.