* Republican governor says "growing government is never
* Says Medicaid already eats up 30 percent of state budget
* Safety net important but premium on affordability, Scott
By Michael Peltier
Jan 7 Florida Governor Rick Scott kept up his
attacks on Obamacare on Monday even after meeting U.S. Health
and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, complaining that
federal healthcare reforms could cost Florida $26 billion over
the next decade.
Scott, a vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act also known
as Obamacare, told reporters following the meeting in Washington
that Medicaid program costs, which state officials say could
mushroom over the next 10 years, continue to be his major
Scott was among a group of Republican governors who fought
hard against the federal mandate and waited until the outcome of
the November election before proceeding in earnest to comply
with the law.
"I understand the need to have a quality healthcare safety
net for every Florida family that can't afford their own health
care," Scott told reporters. "But we have to do it at a price
that Floridians can afford."
Major Obamacare provisions include the creation of insurance
exchanges, which are designed to provide online marketplaces for
individuals to shop for health insurance. In Florida, about 21
percent of residents are uninsured.
The law, which requires individuals to have health
insurance, allows states to operate the exchanges or enter into
partnerships with the federal government. Florida missed a
November deadline for submitting its own exchange proposal so it
will rely on the federal government to do it, at least for now.
Like other states, Florida also has the option to expand its
Medicaid rolls, with the federal government picking up a vast
majority of costs at first.
Scott said Medicaid already accounts for about 30 percent of
the state's budget and represented a cost that was growing at
3-1/2 times the rate of the state's general revenue.
"Growing government is never free," Scott said, alluding to
fears that Florida taxpayers will wind up paying much of the
cost of Medicaid expansion.
"Under the new healthcare law, Florida would nearly double
the people in our Medicaid program over 10 years ... This would
result in a total cost to taxpayers of more than $63 billion
over 10 years, including $26 billion in costs to Florida
taxpayers," he said.
Scott said he urged Sebelius to approve a pair of proposed
Medicaid waivers filed a year ago to allow the state to place
most Medicaid patients into HMO-type managed care plans, which
backers say are less expensive than traditional fee-for-service
"I don't want to promise somebody in our state something
that eventually the state cannot afford," Scott said. "I'm
worried not about the next three years, but the next six years,
the next seven years."