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Fla. governor reverses stance, now supports Medicaid expansion

February 21, 2013
by Pamela Tabar, Senior Editor
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Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, known as one of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) most outspoken opponents, now supports the idea of Medicaid expansion in the state. In a late-day news conference Wednesday, Scott told reporters, “While the federal government is committed to pay 100 percent of the cost, I cannot, in good conscience, deny Floridians the needed access to healthcare.”

The announcement came with some cautious caveats: The expansion would be limited to three years, after which the legislature would re-examine and vote again. “[The expansion] would also sunset if the federal government backed away from their 100-percent commitment during this period,” Scott added.

The policy reversal is significant since Scott has been an aggressive opponent to the ACA since 2010, and was part of the original multi-state challenge that brought the ACA to the Supreme Court. The High Court affirmed the constitutionality of the ACA in June 2012, but the justices also decided that states could not be forced to expand their state Medicaid programs. Following the Supreme Court ruling, many Republican governors, including Scott, vowed not to participate in the Medicaid expansion initiatives.

Despite the new support for the initiative, Florida’s Medicaid expansion decision isn’t in Scott’s hands. The state’s Republican-controlled legislature ultimately will decide whether to implement the expansion program or not.

“Expanding access to Medicaid services for three years is a compassionate, common sense step forward. It is not the end of our work to improve healthcare. And, it is not a white flag of surrender to government-run healthcare,” Scott said at the briefing.

Florida’s state Medicaid system currrently serves 3.3 million people. Expansion efforts could bring services to an additional 1 million residents, noted the Miami-Herald.

Read Gov. Scott’s prepared remarks from the press briefing.

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