Gov. Rick Scott stuck his political neck out earlier this year to champion covering more of his state’s poor residents under Obamacare. But now talk of Medicaid expansion in Florida can, at best, be described as a hushed whisper.
About half the states have signed on to Medicaid expansion, and the early enrollment numbers show it’s the brightest spot in the mostly dismal rollout of the president’s signature health law. In most of the states that did not embrace the federally funded expansion for 2014, debate will rage on about whether to join for the next year. But in Florida, expectations are almost nonexistent even though the state has the country’s second-highest uninsured rate, and there’s a federal pool of $51 billion waiting if the state expands Medicaid to cover about 850,000 low-income Floridians over the next decade.
Tea party-aligned Scott, who was once one of Obamacare’s most fervent critics, shocked the political world by endorsing expansion in February. The GOP-controlled state Senate subsequently agreed, but those plans died in the House amid forceful opposition from GOP Speaker Will Weatherford.
Numerous health care executives interviewed by health reporters traveling in South Florida last week on a Kaiser Family Foundation-sponsored program expressed little expectation that the state would join the optional Obamacare program next year. Nor did they mention plans to pressure Tallahassee lawmakers when the Legislature returns in January.