Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi added clout in Florida's fight against the federal government's forced Medicaid expansion Friday, when the governors of Texas and Kansas filed an amici curiae brief in U.S. District Court in support of the plaintiffs.
The brief follows Scott and Bondi's filing Thursday for a motion for preliminary injunction to immediately prohibit the Obama administration from using "the same coercive threats that the Supreme Court has already held unconstitutional."
In their brief Friday, Greg Abbott, governor of Texas, and Sam Brownback, governor of Kansas, referenced Scott and Bondi's motion, filed in U.S. District Court Thursday.
"This lawsuit is more than an isolated dispute between Florida and a federal agency," read the governors' 11-page filing. "It began five years ago when Texas, Kansas, and twenty-three other States joined Florida in challenging the Affordable Care Acts Medicaid expansion and mandate. NFIB v. Sebelius, 132 S. Ct 2566 (2012). In that case, the Supreme Court held that Congress could not abuse its spending power to coerce States into accepting Medicaid expansion.
"Now the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is trying to accomplish what the Supreme Court told Congress it could not do: use federal spending to coerce States like Florida, Texas, and Kansas into accepting a massive expansion of an already broken and bloated Medicaid program."
The brief described further why the two Republican governors are getting involved.
"The amici share Governor Scotts interest in governing their States as the voters see fit," the document reads, "without interference from federal officials pushing an agenda of conformity and control. HHS has threatened to withhold from Florida billions of dollars in Medicaid payments, and it has issued similar threats to Texas, Kansas, and others. These threats are surely just the beginning of a nationwide campaign to hold hostage federal waiver dollars in those States who are standing firm on their constitutional right to refuse the new Medicaid.
"Seeking to preserve their right to self-governance in our federal system, and supporting Floridas effort to do the same, the amici Governors respectfully submit this brief in support of the Plaintiff State of Florida."
In a statement released after the amicus filing, Gov. Scott said, I am glad Kansas and Texas are joining our fight against the Obama Administration for attempting to coerce Florida into Obamacare expansion by ending an existing federal healthcare program and telling us to expand Medicaid instead. The U.S. Supreme Court has already called this sort of coercion tactic illegal. Making sure all of our families have access to affordable, high quality health care is incredibly important and we will continue to fight to protect the health care of all of our families.
On Wednesday, Scott came away empty from a Washington meeting with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell. Though Burwell now claims Medicaid expansion and LIP aren't connected, that is a change from her previous messaging.As reporter Sarah Kliff explained in an April 23 story, "The White House is trying to strong-arm Florida into expanding Medicaid," for digital publisher Vox Media, "The Florida development is notable, in part, because it shows the White House starting to exert its own leverage. And what it has is the power to reject Republican governors' requests for flexibility, like Florida's proposal. And it can refuse to approve certain funding arrangements that it feels violate how Medicaid is supposed to work."
Less than 24 hours after Scott's meeting with Burwell, he and Bondi filed their motion for preliminary injunction.
Scott's office said Friday the governor has been mischaracterized in the press as flip-flopping on his support for Medicaid expansion.
Jackie Schultz, the governor's communications director, said Scott has explained that he "came out in support of Medicaid expansion, only if it was fully federally funded, at the same time the federal government granted Florida a waiver to let the state reform its Medicaid system.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith