Florida Gov. Scott supports Medicaid expansion

Florida Gov. Rick Scott/Reuters photo by Joe Skipper

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is the latest Republican governor to agree to expand his state’s Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act, the New York Times reports.

Scott, one of the nation’s most vocal critics of the Affordable Care Act, said Wednesday he would agree to a limited, three-year expansion of the program that provides health insurance to low-income resident. In Florida, according to the Times, the expansion would mean health insurance coverage for 1 million more residents.

The three-year period Scott is agreeing to is the length of time the federal government would cover 100 percent of Medicaid expansion costs.

Florida’s Republican-led Legislature would have to agree to the move before the state expands Medicaid coverage in 2014. The Legislature has set up a select committee that’s expected to make a recommendation to the full body.

As that committee weighs its options, it will consider a presentation it heard earlier this month from Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew, who warned Florida lawmakers against expanding their state’s Medicaid program.

While Maine’s Medicaid program has expanded over the past decade, Mayhew argued that Maine has seen virtually no decrease in the percentage of its population that lacks insurance and the state’s hospitals have had to provide more care for free. Tarren Bragdon, who led the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center until 2011 and now leads the Foundation for Government Accountability in Florida, told the same lawmakers it’s impossible to predict the costs to the state of expanding Medicaid coverage. Bragdon cited Maine and Arizona in his presentation.

Scott, whose state was the lead plaintiff in last year’s lawsuit that sought to overturn the Affordable Care Act, joins GOP governors and Affordable Care Act critics in Michigan, Arizona, Ohio, Nevada, New Mexico and North Dakota who have recently announced plans to participate in the health care law’s Medicaid expansion.

In Maine, Gov. Paul LePage has rejected the expansion.

“To be clear: our options are either having Floridians pay to fund this program in other states while denying health care to our citizens,” Scott said, according to the Times, “or using federal funding to help some of the poorest in our state with the Medicaid program as we explore other health care reforms.”