It was just last week when Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) completed a rarely seen flip-flop-flip, denouncing Medicaid expansion, then embracing it, and then condemning it. The consequences matter: 800,000 low-income Floridians were poised to have access to medical care, but they’ll now go without.
And while the governor’s decision seemed like the end of the story, it was actually was the start of a more ridiculous turn of events.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday that he will sue the federal government for allegedly coercing Florida to expand Medicaid.“It is appalling that President Obama would cut off federal healthcare dollars to Florida in an effort to force our state further into Obamacare,” Scott said in a statement.
By late yesterday, the far-right governor was reduced to comparing the White House to the mafia. “This is the Sopranos,” Scott said. “[Administration officials] are using bullying tactics to attack our state. It’s wrong. It’s outrageous they are doing this.”
This is actually one of the more amazing political fights in the country right now, and it’s worth appreciating why.
Back in 2006, the Bush/Cheney administration created a Medicaid pilot project intended to provide funds to help hospitals treat the uninsured. The policy was called “Low Income Pools” (LIP) and Florida received some money through the initiative.
Not surprisingly, the Affordable Care Act made the LIP project unnecessary, and began phasing out the policy.
In Florida, Scott seized on this in the most bizarre way possible – if federal officials are willing to scrap LIP funding, the governor said, then maybe they won’t fund Medicaid. The Republican found a convenient excuse to reject billions in federal funds and a lifeline to 800,000 of his struggling constituents.
Yesterday, the governor took this one step further, announcing a lawsuit to force Washington to give Florida federal funds for a program that will no longer exist. Scott wants money from the Obama administration to help Floridians (through LIP), but at the same time, he also doesn’t want money from the Obama administration to help Floridians (through the ACA).
Joan McCarter joked that Scott only wants a check “that doesn’t have Obamacare cooties.” Greg Sargent added that the governor could very easily clean up this mess by re-embracing Medicaid expansion through the ACA and simply claiming “it isn’t Obamacare.”
Even the Republican president of the Florida state Senate acknowledged yesterday that Scott’s lawsuit doesn’t make any sense
The bottom line in this little farce is that Rick Scott is going to extraordinary lengths – embracing and rejecting money, pitting the GOP-led state House against the GOP-led state Senate, dividing his allies, ignoring the needs of hundreds of thousands of his constituents, undermining his own state budget, even turning down tax cuts – because he finds it necessary to be against “Obamacare.” There’s no real substance to any of this, so much as there’s a partisan principle that the Republican governor is choosing to put at the top of his priority list.
The consequences are predictably absurd.
Brian Beutler’s take on this is exactly right: Scott is “suing the federal government to bail him out of a self-made crisis.”