Rick Scott Under Fire For Inflating Cost Of Health Law’s Medicaid Expansion

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Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott has rejected the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. And now he’s in hot water for apparently inflating the cost of the expansion to Floridians in order to justify his decision.

The website Health News Florida reported Tuesday that Scott was warned in letters by the state legislature’s top economist and budget analyst that his administration’s figure — that the expansion would cost the state $26 billion over 10 years — was false.

Scott’s aide reportedly said, in emails obtained by HNF, that the figure was based on the assumption that the federal government — which is tasked with paying for the vast majority of each state’s Medicaid expansion for the first decade — would not fulfill its promise.

But after the report was published and caused a stir, including scathing criticism from Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), Scott said through a spokeswoman that his Agency for Health Care Administration would consider alternate cost estimates.

“AHCA’s report concluded that adding people to Medicaid under the new law would cost Florida $26 billion over 10 years,” said Scott’s aide Melissa Sellers. “Others have asked AHCA to use different assumptions to calculate different cost estimates. We look forward to reviewing those cost estimates as well.”

Castor accused Scott — a former hospital executive who rose to national prominence in 2009 while campaigning against the ACA — of deliberately deceiving Floridians.

“Not only did Gov. Scott manufacture flawed cost estimates, but it appears he had been advised that the numbers were flawed and used them anyway,” Castor said in a statement. “Florida Legislative Appropriations staff advised the governor’s office that the numbers were misleading, but it appears that the governor ignored it. … Clearly this was not a mistake. Knowing that the numbers are wrong and using them anyway is.”

The Scott administration’s Medicaid figures were disputed by multiple nonpartisan analyses.

“There are three things the Governor has stressed that remain unchanging in this important discussion about cost estimates,” Scott spokeswoman Sellers said. “First, growing government is never free. Second, the number of people in Medicaid would nearly double with the new law (from approximately 3.3 million today to over 6 million). And third, once government grows, it is almost never undone. The fiscal cliff debate in Washington is proof enough of that. Additionally, as the AHCA report points out, federal projections on growing government have a long history of being much lower than actual costs.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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