With both chambers in the Florida Legislature having adjourned, Gov. Rick Scott reiterated his opposition to Medicaid expansion and called for leaving it out of the budget process in the special session needed to assemble a budget by the start of July.
Scott released a statement on Thursday and characterized Medicaid expansion as part of President Barack Obamas federal health-care law. Back in 2009, Scott made his political debut in charge of Conservatives for Patients Rights (CPR) which opposed Obamas law.
Now that the Florida Senate and House have adjourned, we must immediately turn our focus to how we can work together to craft a state budget before July 1st that continues funding for critical state services, Scott said on Thursday, before agreeing with House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, that the Senate had erred by bringing up Medicaid expansion after the state of session. There were no discussions about Medicaid expansion under Obamacare before the legislative session began. Today, it is clear that a thorough analysis of how health care can be reformed to improve cost, quality and access is needed, apart from the budget process.
Our previous state Medicaid reform efforts took months of thoughtful debate in order to not only develop the best policy with the most flexibility for our citizens, but to ensure we designed something that the federal government would ultimately approve, Scott added. Any conversation on new health care or Medicaid reforms should be similarly deliberated.
It is important to note that we still do not have any evidence that the federal government would approve work requirements for the Medicaid program, Scott continued. However, there are other ideas we could begin to explore to increase access to health care, including having the federal government give the state a 100 percent federally funded block grant to develop a flexible program that meets the unique needs of Floridas population. The bottom line is that any discussion about how to increase health-care access cannot and must not be separate from a discussion about how to lower health-care costs. Cost limits access, no matter who is paying.
Warning that Medicaid expansion will cost Florida taxpayers at least $5 billion over 10 years and could eventually result in the state having to raise taxes to afford the growth of government, Scott agreed with a characterization that Crisfaulli made in a letter to Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, that Medicaid expansion was actually an expansion of President Barack Obamas health-care law.
Expanding Obamacare in Florida would also further tie us to a federal government that has already walked away from our Low Income Pool health-care program," Scott said. The proposed Obamacare expansion plan would also force Floridians who currently have private insurance on the federal exchange into the government-run Medicaid program causing them to lose the plans they liked and were told they could keep, practically overnight.
In order to best facilitate a conversation about how to lower health-care costs that will improve health-care access for Floridians of all incomes, we will establish a Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding, Scott continued. The commission will examine how taxpayer money supports hospitals, health care and insurance plans in Florida and what health care outcomes those entities provide for Floridians in return. It will also evaluate certificate of need laws in our state and how their elimination would increase competition and subsequently decrease cost. Lowering costs will ultimately lower hospitals need for federal dollars, which is a win-win for Florida taxpayers.
The Commission on Health-care and Hospital Funding will begin their work in the weeks ahead and gather essential information that could inform the building of a budget before July 1. Scott noted. My office will also immediately begin working with the House and the Senate on a budget that would continue funding for critical Florida programs.
We should begin preparing a budget in the interim that could be taken up in a special session without any LIP funding and without any expansion of Obamacare, Scott said in conclusion. I look forward to continuing to work with Senate and House leaders in the weeks ahead to address critical funding needs and identify when and how we can direct over $1 billion in surplus state tax revenue back to the Florida citizens who earned it. After all, this is their money not governments.
Scott did not set a date for the special session on Thursday.
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