A bitter critic of Obamacare, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced a surprising change of opinion on Wednesday, saying he would back an expansion of Medicaid in the state. The Tampa Bay Times called it an “amazing policy reversal.” Scott had derided the program as a “job killer” and said last summer that the state would opt out of the expansion, a key part of President Obama’s health-care reform.
The governors of 18 states have said they won’t expand eligibility; 26 states have declared or hinted that they’ll adopt the new standard for Medicaid eligibility. Most of them have Democratic governors, but seven Republicans (from Arizona, Michigan, North Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio and now Florida) have broken party ranks in order to secure the federal assistance.
The Florida expansion will bring health coverage to nearly 1 million low-income people―at least for three years. The governor said that after the initial three-year expansion, the state legislature would have to vote to reauthorize the program. Tea Party and other conservatives condemned Governor Scott’s decision.
“It is not a white flag of surrender to government-run health care,” Scott said. “While the federal government is committed to paying 100% of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care.”
Scott explained his political reversal as in large part driven by his private life. “A few months ago, my mother passed away, and I lost one of the only constants in my life,” he said. “Losing someone so close to you puts everything in new perspective … especially the big decisions.”
Read more about Obamacare and the countdown to 2014, and look at your own state’s health ranking.