Florida Governor Rick Scott announced today that he will support the federal government's expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare.
Just a few months ago, the governor penned an op-ed for the Spectator titled, "More Medicaid? No Thanks." It ran in our September magazine. Here's a sample of Scott's argument:
Florida’s share of Medicaid payments in the last fiscal year was more than $9 billion. And that number is growing three and a half times faster than the state’s general revenue is growing. In short, every year, Florida’s Medicaid program eats a larger and larger share of the revenue pie. Expanding Medicaid now would only accelerate that unsustainable growth.
The big-government health care advocates who designed Obamacare knew that states like Florida would balk if they had to fork up billions more to pay for a Medicaid expansion, so they relied on the federal government’s ability to print billions of new dollars to pay for the up-front costs. Many recent news stories and opinion pieces tout the fact that the federal government will pay 100 percent of the expansion costs for the first three years. It sounds great, until you ask the important question: What then?
Granted, some things have changed since those words were written last year. For one, the president's re-election has extinguished any hope of repealing Obamacare, at least in the short term. Florida has been granted federal waivers that will apparently allow the state to privatize Medicaid to some degree. And granted, Scott's proposal (which would need to be passed legislatively) is to sunset the program's expansion after three years, when the federal government has said it will stop picking up 100 percent of the tab. But how likely is the state to simply throw people off the rolls once they've been added?
Scott insisted in his remarks today that his move was not "a white flag of surrender to government-run healthcare." But it's hard to see what else it might be—especially since Scott built his public profile condemning Obamacare as the founder of Conservatives for Patients' Rights.
To quote Rick Scott (well, since we now need to clarify, to quote Rick Scott from 2012):
If Obamacare is repealed, states have plenty of alternatives for fixing health care, and they won’t break the bank.
But even if Obamacare is never repealed, its ultimate fate will be determined by those states that reject the Medicaid expansion. States that opt in will be compared to those that opt out, and Americans will be able to see the difference between responsible governance and rampant spending. I am confident Florida will succeed where other states fail. The result will be more financial flexibility to provide tax cuts or fund programs that deliver proven results. Compare that outlook with a state like California, which is already broke, and the contrast becomes clear.