After Republican Gov. Rick Scott announced last month in a surprising turnaround that he would support Obamacare's Medicaid expansion for Florida, the Republican-led legislature signaled its intention to thwart his will. Last week, the legislature did just that. It passed a budget without the Medicaid expansion and adjourned.
In a letter Monday, Nelson excoriated the legislature's "unconscionable and callous decision" to reject the expansion and called on Scott to demonstrate his commitment to insuring the roughly 1 million Floridians the expansion would cover -- by calling the legislature back into special session to reconsider Medicaid funding.
"Now, the Legislature has done exactly what you said you wouldn't: it has denied these Floridians access to coverage. And now, only you have the chance to remedy the lawmakers' failure to expand Medicaid to these needy Floridians," Nelson wrote. "Therefore, I urge you to call a special session."
Scott's office didn't respond to a request for comment Monday. It would be unusual for the legislature to call the special session for this purpose, and supporters of the expansion aren't holding their breath that Scott will fight his own party on the issue.
Nelson's aides recently said he's considering a challenge to Scott for governor when he's up for reelection next year. Nelson downplayed the prospect on MSNBC but didn't rule it out.
Republican state legislators are caught in a predicament between the extraordinarily generous federal funding for the Medicaid expansion -- 100 percent for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter -- and vehement opposition from conservative activists, who see opposition to the expansion as their last line of defense against implementation of Obamacare. The right also argues that Washington won't come through with the funds.
An estimated one in five non-seniors in the state are uninsured. Hospital lobbyists have been pushing for the expansion, fearing that they'd be on the hook for emergency care for thousands of patients if Medicaid does not step in and cover them.
"So, again, I strongly urge you to remedy the Legislature's inexcusable failure," Nelson wrote. "I look forward to hearing from you on this issue of special importance and working with you to provide Floridians with this much-needed medical coverage."