Gov. Rick Scott has announced plans to expand Medicaid coverage - WFLA News Channel 8

Gov. Rick Scott has announced plans to expand Medicaid coverage

Posted: Updated:
TALLAHASSEE, FL -

Gov. Rick Scott announced plans Wednesday to expand Medicaid coverage to roughly 900,000 more people under the federal health overhaul, a surprise decision from the vocal critic of President Barack Obama's plan.

The governor said he gained new perspective after his mother's death last year, calling his decision to support a key provision of the Affordable Care Act a "compassionate, common sense step forward," and not a "white flag of surrender to government-run healthcare."

"Before I ever dreamed of standing here today as governor of this great state, I was a strong advocate for better ways to improve healthcare than the government-run approach taken in the President's healthcare law. I believe in a different approach. But, regardless of what I - or anyone else-believes, a Supreme Court decision and a presidential election made the President's healthcare mandates the law of the land," Scott said at a news conference.

The governor said he still worries that the president's plan could "lead to less patient choice, worse care, and higher costs" but he can't "in good conscience deny the uninsured access to care." Scott stressed he won't simply deny new Medicaid recipients health insurance after the three years are up, but said he will spend that time measuring how the expansion impacts healthcare costs, quality and access.

At one point, he said the expansion would cost $26 billion over the next decade, but the state's health care agency slashed its estimate to $3 billion after backlash from lawmakers over how the initial figure was calculated. After Obama was re-elected, Scott toned down his rhetoric, signaling he wanted to work with federal health officials. He even flew to Washington to meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last month to discuss the expansion.

Florida lawmakers must still sign off on Scott's decision, and the Legislature doesn't meet until next month.  "I am personally skeptical that this inflexible law will improve the quality of healthcare in our state and ensure our long-term financial stability," Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford said.

Angry conservatives said Scott owes his support base an explanation.  "I am flabbergasted. This is a guy who, before he was a candidate for governor, started an organization to fight 'Obamacare' in the expansion of medical entitlements. This is a guy who said it will never happen on his watch. Well, here it is," said Slade O'Brien, Florida director of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity.

The other six GOP governors who plan to expand the program are the leaders of Michigan, Ohio, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and North Dakota. So far 21 states plus Washington, D.C., plan to expand their Medicaid programs under the health care law. Fourteen states have said they'll turn it down, although the debate is still going in several of them. Another 15 are weighing options.

Under the federal law, states were given the choice of whether to expand Medicaid to people whose incomes equal 138 percent of the federal poverty level - about $15,000 for an individual and $32,000 for a family of four.

Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured residents in the country and some of the most stringent eligibility requirements. A family of three with income of $11,000 a year makes too much and single residents are not covered. The bulk of residents getting coverage under the Medicaid expansion will be childless adults.

The federal government's offer to cover most of the cost of expansion is much more generous than the roughly 50 percent matching rate that federal health officials currently pay for Medicaid. The state spends about $21 billion a year to cover roughly 3 million patients - about half are children.

Florida hospital officials have said the state would receive about $26 billion from the federal government to pay for Medicaid expansion over the next decade. That would be a huge boon to hospitals that are losing other federal funding sources for uninsured patients under the federal health law.

Advocates said Medicaid expansion will bring about 54,000 new jobs to the state and have a significant impact on Florida's tourism and hospitality industries.  Hospital executives have said the expansion will significantly reduce the amount of money spent covering uninsured patients by hospitals, insurers and taxpayers by allowing patients to get coordinated treatment whenever they need it instead of waiting to go to the emergency room.

The new Medicaid population will get coverage under the privatization proposal that federal and state health officials are still hammering out. The program would allow for-profit providers to determine the health care for Medicaid recipients with the goal of saving money and improving services.  Federal officials are insisting on enhanced accountability measures by requiring the state to use real-time data that evaluates whether the program is actually improving patient care along the way as promised, not just at yearly benchmarks. The state must also hold regular meeting with health advocates, patients and insurers and hire an ombudsmen to oversee the portion of the program that involves tens of thousands of elderly, long-term care patients.

Scott's announcement came hours after federal health officials said they plan to approve the state's longstanding request to privatize its Medicaid program statewide if they agree to beef up transparency and accountability measures. He said that decision signaled that feds were willing to work with the state to give them the flexibility they need., a former CEO of the HCA hospital chain, entered politics in 2009 running national cable TV commercials criticizing the president's plan. Florida led the way in challenging the ACA in a lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Scott also made the rounds on conservative talk shows repeatedly expressing concern that expanding Medicaid would put too much of a strain on Florida taxpayers. said he would support the expansion as long as the federal government pays 100 percent of the increased costs, which is the deal offered to states by the Obama administration for the first three years.

After that, the federal government said it would pay 90 percent of the cost for the additional enrollees. said he will ask the Legislature to expand the program under a bill that would expire in three years, after which it would require renewed legislative support. He's the seventh Republican governor so far to propose expanding the taxpayer-funded health insurance program.

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Community reaches out to Spring Hill family after theft of lawn equipment

    Community reaches out to Spring Hill family after theft of lawn equipment

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:41 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:41:35 GMT
    Michael Depace wants to say "thank you" and give a huge hug to everyone that reached out after a thief stole $3,500 worth of lawn equipment from him.
    Michael Depace wants to say "thank you" and give a huge hug to everyone that reached out after a thief stole $3,500 worth of lawn equipment from him.
  • FL vehicle registration renewal fees drop

    FL vehicle registration renewal fees drop

    Monday, September 1 2014 11:48 AM EDT2014-09-01 15:48:49 GMT
    That little gift you get from the state on your birthday every year, to renew your car tag, is going to be cheaper starting Monday.  The cut will save drivers about $13 to $25 depending on the size of their vehicle.
    That little gift you get from the state on your birthday every year, to renew your car tag, is going to be cheaper starting Monday.  The cut will save drivers about $13 to $25 depending on the size of their vehicle.
  • Mold takes over St. Pete condo, creeps into neighbors' homes

    Mold takes over St. Pete condo, creeps into neighbors' homes

    Friday, August 29 2014 5:48 PM EDT2014-08-29 21:48:06 GMT
    Josephine Ramos is literally sick about the toxic black mold growing in the St. Petersburg condominium beside hers. She's been feeling ill for months with headaches and breathing problems. Recently, she had peak inside the condo next doors and couldn't believe her eyes.
    Josephine Ramos is literally sick about the toxic black mold growing in the St. Petersburg condominium beside hers. She's been feeling ill for months with headaches and breathing problems. Recently, she had peak inside the condo next doors and couldn't believe her eyes.
  • NewsMore>>

  • Pasco County couple survive a week adrift at sea

    Pasco County couple survive a week adrift at sea

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 12:17 AM EDT2014-09-02 04:17:17 GMT
    A Pasco county couple is recovering after spending a week adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. They were trapped 80 miles off shore without any food and very little water for seven days.
    A Pasco county couple is recovering after spending a week adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. They were trapped 80 miles off shore without any food and very little water for seven days.
  • Palm Harbor strip club hit & run victim makes plea

    Palm Harbor strip club hit & run victim makes plea

    Monday, September 1 2014 9:33 PM EDT2014-09-02 01:33:46 GMT
    New video shows the violent incident early Friday morning, outside "Silks" strip club on US 19 in Palm Harbor. Bouncer Doug Berube and the club DJ. wanted to talk to a guy in a car about an earlier incident. The driver shoved it in reverse, hit the gas, and backed over Berube. He has a plea for the driver....
    New video shows the violent incident early Friday morning, outside "Silks" strip club on US 19 in Palm Harbor. Bouncer Doug Berube and the club DJ. wanted to talk to a guy in a car about an earlier incident. The driver shoved it in reverse, hit the gas, and backed over Berube. He has a plea for the driver....
  • Land O' Lakes man: troopers saved my life

    Land O' Lakes man: troopers saved my life

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:41 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:41:51 GMT
    A Pasco County man credits two Florida Highway Patrol troopers with saving his life. A Pasco County man credits two Florida Highway Patrol troopers with saving his life.
    Chris Henry calls two Florida Highway Patrol Troopers heroes. He believes they saved his life.
    Chris Henry calls two Florida Highway Patrol Troopers heroes. He believes they saved his life.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Restaurant Ratings Most Violations: August 18 - 23

    Restaurant Ratings Most Violations: August 18 - 23

    Friday, August 29 2014 5:58 PM EDT2014-08-29 21:58:28 GMT
    Ever wonder what goes on in the kitchen of your favorite restaurants?
    Ever wonder what goes on in the kitchen of your favorite restaurants?
  • Clearwater Marine Aquarium plans to drop animal shows

    Clearwater Marine Aquarium plans to drop animal shows

    Monday, September 1 2014 11:09 AM EDT2014-09-01 15:09:15 GMT
    Aug. 3, 2011 file photo, Clearwater Marine Aquarium senior marine mammal trainer Abby Stone works with Winter the dolphin in Clearwater, Image APAug. 3, 2011 file photo, Clearwater Marine Aquarium senior marine mammal trainer Abby Stone works with Winter the dolphin in Clearwater, Image AP
    No animal performances will be held at a redesigned aquatic center planned by the Florida aquarium featured in the "Dolphin Tale" movies.
    No animal performances will be held at a redesigned aquatic center planned by the Florida aquarium featured in the "Dolphin Tale" movies.
  • Bubba 'The Love Sponge' to announce new Tampa gig

    Bubba 'The Love Sponge' to announce new Tampa gig

    Monday, September 1 2014 3:09 PM EDT2014-09-01 19:09:07 GMT
    File photo of Bubba the Love Sponge ClemFile photo of Bubba the Love Sponge Clem
    Bubba "The Love Sponge" announced on his Twitter page Monday that he will soon have a new Tampa home.
    Bubba "The Love Sponge" announced on his Twitter page Monday that he will soon have a new Tampa home.
Powered by WorldNow

200 South Parker Street, Tampa, FL 33606

Telephone: 813.228.8888
Fax: 813.225.2770
Email: news@wfla.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.