Florida Gov. Rick Scott says that his state will not implement the federal health care law because it’s bad policy and cost too much.
The governor told Fox News he thinks the law should be repealed, hopefully by Mitt Romney in November. But in the case that President Obama wins a second term he said Florida will not be setting up a health-insurance exchange nor will they expand Medicaid.
“We’re not going to implement Obamacare in Florida,” Scott told Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren on Friday night. “We’re not going to expand Medicaid because we’re going to do the right thing. We’re not going to do the exchange.”
State Rep. Mark Pafford, the ranking Democrat on the Florida House committee that handles health care funding, said he was not surprised.
“This is a guy who was in the private sector. He created an organization to fight the Affordable Care Act,” said Pafford, of West Palm Beach. “He then was so upset that he became governor using his own money. So it wouldn’t make sense that he would do anything else.”
Under the Affordable Care Act law, states must implement a health insurance exchange by 2014, a Web-based marketplace where people can shop for insurance, or defer to a federal program. States need to submit plans to the federal government that demonstrate their readiness to launch health exchanges by Nov. 16. States also must decide whether to move forward with an expansion of Medicaid to reduce the number of uninsured residents.
In Florida about 3.8 million people, or 21 percent, are uninsured.
The Supreme Court ruling made it clear that states can not be financially penalized for non-compliance. The federal government has promised to cover nearly all of the costs of the Medicaid expansion in the early years, but Scott said Medicaid is already too expensive and the expansion would put further strain on the state budget.
“We care about having a health care safety net for the vulnerable Floridians,” Scott said on Fox. “But this is an expansion that just doesn’t make any sense.”
Many of the most popular aspects of the Affordable Care Act are already in effect and do not require state involvement. That includes provisions like prescription drug discounts for seniors, allowing young adults to remain on parents’ insurance plans and free preventative care.
Scott said other Republican governors agreed their focus should be fighting the law and supporting Romney, including Rick Perry of Texas, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
“Here in Louisiana, look, we refused to set up the exchange. We’re not going to start implementing Obamacare,” Jindal told POLITICO. “We have not applied for the grants, we have not accepted many of these dollars, we are not implementing the exchanges, we don’t think it makes any sense to implement Obamacare in Louisiana.”
Scott said the governors arrived at the same conclusion that expanding Medicaid and creating exchanges are not good for taxpayers.
“We care about the citizens of our state,” he said. “We know this will be bad for our health care. We want jobs in our state. This is going to put American businesses at an unbelievable disadvantage as compared to businesses around the world.”
Scott cited the law’s requirement for businesses to offer insurance to employees. He told Van Susteren a story about a Florida business owner who said he may have to shut his doors.
“They walked up to me and they said, ‘Governor, is this really going to become the law? Because if it does, we’re out of business,’ ” Scott said. “ ‘We have 20 employees; we know we won’t be able to buy any health care for anybody.’ ”
The law actually grants companies with fewer than 50 employees an exemption from any requirement to buy insurance.
One of Scott’s biggest concerns is the cost of adding an estimated 1 million people to the Medicaid rolls.
“We can’t pay for that; there is no way Floridians can pay for that,” he said.
Democrat Rep. Pafford believes that Republican lawmakers should be embracing provisions that expand health care access, he said, and new revenue streams like a tax on internet commerce could help pay for it.
“We can afford it,” he said. “There are plenty of ways to do that. They just don’t want to afford it.”
The Legislature sets the budget, so it will ultimately decide whether or not to allocate money to implement provisions of the health care law.
Incoming Senate President Don Gaetz said he and incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford will work with the governor’s office in reaching a final decision. But for now, they are waiting on staff to digest what the court ruling means and its impact, Gaetz said.
“It’s not a matter of not having made up my mind yet, it’s a matter that this 110-page opinion, which is nearly as complex as the law itself, is not 48 hours old yet,” said Gaetz, R-Niceville. “I believe in ‘ready, aim, fire,’ not ‘ready, fire, aim.’ ”
Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said there isn’t an immediate need to move forward on implementing the law. There is no harm in waiting a few months to see if the outcome of the November election changes the political climate, he said.
“There is an opportunity to bring new leadership to the United States of America,” he said, “and if that happens it’s going to change everything.”