Despite having the second-highest proportion of uninsured non-elderly people in the nation (one in four Floridian under age 65 is uninsured), Florida will opt out of spending about $2 billion more to expand Medicaid, and won’t build insurance exchanges, another optional part of the federal health care law, Gov. Rick Scott’s office said Sunday.
The Supreme Court ruling last week upholding the massive health care spending overhaul also specifically said the federal government can’t coerce states into expanding Medicaid, as the law requires, by withholding Medicaid money for parts of the program already in existence.
Scott said as recently as Friday that he wasn’t sure whether Florida would opt out of expanding Medicaid, but said in a statement late Sunday that the Medicaid expansion is “inconsistent with his mission to grow jobs for Floridians.”
Scott also noted that the Affordable Care Act, the central piece of legislation pushed by the Obama administration, doesn’t take effect until 2014 and nothing in it is required of states before the 2012 general election, when Republicans hope to unseat President Obama. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has pledged to repeal the act.
Scott also said, however, that Florida will follow the law and for any part of it that does require the state to do something, Florida will do it.
Republicans, who have been in control of the state for more than a decade, have repeatedly said that Florida can’t afford what it spends now on health care for the poor, and the large expansion required by the bill would also be problematic.
Turning down the expansion of Medicaid means turning away most of the money to pay for it. Washington would have picked up 90 percent of the cost, and all of it in the first couple years. But even that small state portion of new spending would be too much, Scott concluded.
Scott also noted that some families already are covered in Florida at the 133 percent of poverty level that the new law calls on states to do – and Florida has a children’s health insurance program, KidCare, which prevents children whose families sign up from going without health coverage. Still, 16.2 percent of Florida’s children are without health insurance, according to the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care-related think tank. That’s also the second-highest rate of uninsured children in the nation.
By far the lowest rate of uninsured is in Massachusetts, where just 3.4 percent of children were uninsured by the end of 2010, and 5.7 percent of the non-elderly population as a whole was uninsured. Massachusetts is benefiting from the insurance mandate–very similar to the one Congress enacted in 2010–that then-Gov. Mitt Romney enacted in 2006. Romney, the Republican nominee for president, is now opposed to that kind of reform if applied through the federal government.
Another part of the health care law gives Florida the flexibility to opt out of building insurance “exchanges” that Washington billed as a way of helping residents find health coverage. Scott said it would cost too much.
“Floridians are interested in jobs and economic growth, a quality education for their children, and keeping the cost of living low,” Scott said in a statement. “Neither of these major provisions in ObamaCare will achieve those goals, and since Florida is legally allowed to opt out, that’s the right decision for our citizens.”
Scott said the answer to higher health care costs is more accountability for medical providers and incentives for people to stay healthy.
–News Service of Florida and FlaglerLive