Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott responds to a question during a gubernatorial debate against Democrat Charlie Crist on Oct. 10, 2014, in Miramar, Fla.
Photo by Lynne Sladky/AP

Florida has its ‘Keep the government out of Obamacare’ moment

Way back in August 2009, the estimable Tim Noah took note of an annoying trend among far-right activists: “ ‘Keep your government hands off my Medicare.’ It was funny the first two or three times this angry citizen’s cry against health reform got repeated … but the joke is starting to wear thin.”
Periodically, some have wondered when we might reach a “Keep your government hands off my Obamacare” moment, and today in Florida, it seems that time is upon us – or at least, it’s awfully close.
The Republican-run state government in Florida has found itself in a terrible mess lately, and divisions among GOP policymakers over the Affordable Care Act have gotten a little ugly. As we talked about yesterday, the Republican-run state Senate wants to accept Medicaid expansion, bolster state finances, extend coverage to 850,000 low-income Floridians, and clear the way for another tax cut. The Republican-run state House, meanwhile, wants to oppose “Obamacare” because, well, it’s “Obamacare.”
Today, Gov. Rick Scott (R) issued a press statement, sketching out his opposition to Medicaid expansion. Most of the statement is filled with boilerplate rhetoric, but Charles Gaba flagged the fun part:
“Putting the cart before the horse by trying to grab the limited-one-time-only offer of so-called ‘free’ money from Obamacare, on the other hand, 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. Expanding Obamacare in Florida would also further tie us to a federal government that has already walked away from our Low Income Pool healthcare program.

“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.” [emphasis added]
It’s that part in bold that arguably matters most.
Scott arguing that Medicaid expansion will lead to tax increases is hard to take seriously. The Republican governor accusing the government of “walking away from” the LIP program is wildly misleading (the program’s goals have been incorporated into the Affordable Care Act, which is practically the opposite of abandoning the policy).
But note that Floridian actually goes so far as to argue that consumers who qualify for coverage under Medicaid expansion might transition from the federal exchange to Medicaid – which he thinks would be awful.
In other words, Rick Scott believes Florida should say no to Obamacare because it might interfere with Obamacare.
It seems unlikely the governor actually believes his own talking points – remember, Scott used to support Medicaid expansion, saying he couldn’t oppose it “in good conscience,” right up until he changed his mind – so he’s grasping at straws here. Still, this is the first time I’ve seen a high-profile Republican argue publicly that the ACA is working so well for some people that officials should be careful not to undermine it with the ACA.
Let’s also not forget, by the way, that Rick Scott supports the King v. Burwell lawsuit at the Supreme Court, which, if successful, would “cause Floridians who currently have private insurance on the federal exchange to lose the plans they like.”
If the governor believes his own rhetoric, shouldn’t he oppose the litigation that would take health security from so many of his constituents?