Litigation Instead Of Leadership

Governor Scott put ideology ahead of bringing health insurance to 800,000 Floridians.

Governor Scott Puts Ideology Ahead Of Bringing Health Insurance To 800,000 Floridians

Florida is once again in the news for ignoble reasons (and we aren’t talking about this guy). It seemed that the state’s Republican leadership was on track to finally close Florida’s health care coverage gap, and potentially pave the way for movement in other conservative states. By agreeing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, nearly 800,000 working-class Floridians would have got access to health insurance. Unfortunately, conservative ideology has once again gotten in the way of bringing health care to working families.

While Governor Rick Scott (R) had waffled on supporting closing the coverage gap, he came out in support in February 2013. As the former CEO of the country’s largest for-profit hospital company, Scott said that “I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care.” Obama administration officials and the Florida governor were negotiating over details while the Florida Senate unanimously passed a budget that would have closed the coverage gap.

But then, conservative obstructionism made a reappearance. Florida House Republicans stubbornly refused to even entertain a compromise, threatening a kind of rhetorical war against their erstwhile allies in the Senate. Conservative outside groups, like the Florida chapter of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, attacked closing the gap as “Obama’s Medicaid expansion,” despite the support of the Republican Senate president and the Republican governor.

That is, before Governor Scott flip-flopped back to opposing Medicaid expansion, causing the impasse where we are now. Scott has accused the Obama administration of coercing the state to accept federal funding for Medicaid expansion by declining to renew $1 billion in federal funding for another program, which funds hospital care for the uninsured. Put another way, the Obama administration is telling Scott that he should use federal money to offer low-income people health insurance, not just to provide hospital care, and Scott doesn’t like it. (Scott, by the way, has known the funding was set to expire for over a year.) Now, the Florida governor is suing the administration over the issue. Instead of focusing on ensuring that their constituents receive health insurance, Scott and Florida House Republican leadership would rather obstruct and litigate a settled matter.

BOTTOM LINE: In the face of so many facts saying the Affordable Care Act works, why do conservatives continue to lean on the courts to block health care from millions? At the federal level, as we know, conservative efforts in the King v. Burwell case threaten health care for over 8 million Americans. And now in Florida, Governor Rick Scott is also going to the courts in a strained effort to deny health care to hundreds of thousands of his constituents. Real lives are at stake; it is time that we put patients over politics and support the expansion of health care to working Americans.

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