In Surprise Decision, Gov. Scott Backs Medicaid Expansion In Florida

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday that he will ask the state legislature to move forward with the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, becoming the seventh Republican governor to do so.

“I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care,” Scott said, speaking at a hastily-prepared press conference.Under Scott’s proposal, the state would only commit to the first three years of the expansion and the federal government would cover the entire cost. After that point, Florida’s participation will have to be reauthorized. Under President Obama’s health reform law, Obamacare, the federal government’s contribution to states would slowly decrease after the first three years, bottoming out at 90 percent of the cost of the expansion in 2020.

Scott stressed that his decision is not a “white flag of surrender to government-run healthcare.” Instead, he explained that his decision was based on his commitment to providing coverage to every Floridian. “We have a Supreme Court decision and an election that says this is the law of the land,” he added.

Scott’s announcement represents an about-face for the Republican governor who has ardently opposed the health care reform law and even promised to opt out of the expansion last summer. Scott explained Wednesday that the recent death of his mother gave him “new perspective” and said he recalled her struggles to attain care for his sick siblings as he “wrestled” with the decision.

If the Republican-run legislature goes along with Scott’s plan, the expansion would give at least 1 million Floridians access to health coverage, according to the Miami Herald.

Scott’s announcement came on the same day that the federal government granted Florida a waiver to privatize Medicaid, paving the way for the governor’s decision. Scott also announced that Florida would not operate its own health insurance exchange, making it one of 26 states that will have an exchange operated by the federal government.