TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Gov. Rick Scott has decided to opt out of parts of the Affordable Care Act that are optional for states.
That means Florida will not expand its Medicaid program to cover an extra one million Floridians. Plus, the state will not create an insurance exchange to help people find health coverage.
Gov. Scott believes those parts of the health care law will raise the cost of living for Floridians and hurt the private sector's ability to create jobs.
"We're trying to do things that help the state grow jobs. We're trying to help Floridians who don't want their cost of living to go up and these pieces of legislation from Obamacare don't help those goals at all. In fact, they probably hurt those goals," said Scott's spokesman Lane Wright.
But health care advocate Karen Woodall disagrees. She says the federal government would fully pay the cost of expanding Medicaid for three years and then pay 90 percent of the cost in following years.
Woodall, of the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy, says for every new dollar the state spends on Medicaid, Florida would get more than $9 in return from the federal government -- money that would go straight into the economy and create an estimated 65,000 job over five years.
"That money goes to create jobs. It goes to pay doctors and nurses and medical technicians and CNAs and nursing home administrators. That money goes in to create jobs."
Wright says Medicaid costs have already risen out of control and the state cannot afford the bill now, let alone what it might be in three years.
"This is classic federal government. They'll help us out for the first year or two and then after that Florida is on the hook. But Medicaid costs have been rising at three-and-a-half the rate of our general revenue. It's just getting out of control for our budget and if the federal government just expects us to take over those payments it's going to be something that's too much for us to handle."
Woodall doesn't buy it. She says the state has the money to afford those expenses -- it's just a matter of priorities and how Florida spends its tax dollars.
"I'm always disappointed when we don't take advantage of an opportunity to provide a million people with health care coverage and to bring back our federal money into the state of Florida."
Gov. Scott says Florida will comply with whatever parts of the law are required for states, but he won't carry out the optional provisions.
And while Scott has no intention of building the optional insurance exchange in Florida, Woodall says the state will still have one. She says it just means the federal government will run Florida's exchange.
The insurance exchange will be a web-based system allowing people to search for private insurance coverage.
Woodall says since Gov. Scott has not done anything so far to implement such an exchange, she's glad the feds plan to operate it for Florida.
Gov. Scott hopes Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will win the election and work to repeal the health care law. Scott argues the real problem with health care is the rising cost and the way to fix it is to create more competition, make medical providers more accountable and give people incentives to protect their own health.
First Coast News