Governor Rick Scott expresses his disappointment about the Supreme Court’s decision concerning the healthcare bill at a news conference on Thursday, June 28, 2012, in Tallahassee, Florida. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)
Nearly 1 million Floridians will be denied access to Medicaid they would have otherwise received under the Affordable Care Act if Governor Rick Scott gets his way. The Supreme Court ruling last week on the law made it easier for states to opt out of an expansion, and Sunday night the governor’s office e-mailed a statement from Scott that “since Florida is legally allowed to opt out, that’s the right decision for our citizens.”
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation the Medicaid expansion in Florida would have covered 951,622 people that currently don’t have insurance. The federal government would have picked up the entire tab for the first three years, and by 2020 would still be paying 90 percent. But Scott—a former CEO of a large hospital chain who rode to Tea Party stardom and the governor’s mansion by being a rabid opponent of “Obamacare”—apparently finds the political posturing more important.
Similarly in South Carolina, Governor Nikki Haley—another Tea Party darling elected along with Scott in 2010—said her state would opt out as well. “We’re not going to shove more South Carolinians into a broken system,” said a Haley spokesman. The expansion there would have provided coverage to 330,932 people.
These are no doubt worrying developments, but it’s important to note that this could amount to nothing but saber-rattling by politicians dedicated to the Tea Party cause. It’s not up to either Haley or Scott to reject the expansion—it must be done by the state legislatures, and while both are controlled by Republicans and the leadership of the governor matters, it’s far from a done deal. The Medicaid expansion won’t take place until 2014 and there are many factors that could keep the expansion on track in both states, and the others that are contemplating an opt-out.