Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) said yesterday that he is going to sue the federal government for “coercing Florida to expand Medicaid,” the Miami Herald reported.
“It is appalling that President Obama would cut off federal healthcare dollars in Florida in an effort to force our state further into Obamacare,” Scott said in a statement.
The lawsuit specifically names the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS is currently deciding “whether to renew a $2.2 billion program called the Low Income Pool [LIP] that helps Florida hospitals treat low-income patients.” If CMS chooses not to renew after the program expires in June, the lack of funds could cause a “$1.3 billion budget gap,” The Herald said.
Earlier this week, CMS told Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration that the LIP decision is dependent on whether or not the state decides to accept the federal Medicaid expansion.
Scott has flip-flopped on the expansion more than once. At first, he took the position of most Republican governors and opposed expanding Medicaid in his state. Then in 2013, Scott said he would accept the expansion, but the state’s legislature shot it down. Earlier this month, Scott went back to his original stance, and said the state will not expand Medicaid, citing the CMS and the LIP renewal:
“[Given] that the federal government said they would not fund the federal [LIP] program to the level it is funded today, it would be hard to understand how the state could take on even more federal programs that [CMS] could scale back or walk away from.”
Yesterday Scott said the CMS was violating a Supreme Court ruling “that the president cannot force Medicaid expansion on states.”
“Not only does President Obama’s end to LIP funding in Florida violate the law by crossing the line into a coercion tactic for Obamacare,” Scott said, “it also threatens poor families’ access to the safety net healthcare services they need.”
But what’s really keeping Floridians from getting the healthcare they need is Scott’s latest refusal to expand Medicaid. Accepting the federal expansion would give 1.3 million people some sort of health care assistance, either through Medicaid or tax subsidies on health insurance.
Scott’s lawsuit is also ridiculous because the state has been aware of the LIP’s expiration for quite some time, said CMS spokesperson Ben Wakana.
“Florida is requesting an additional optional extension,” said Wakana, “which raises a different question: whether it promotes the objectives of the Medicaid statute to use demonstration authority when the state has statutory options that would better serve the low-income population.”
This lawsuit is nothing more than political scheming by Scott. He could have accepted the Medicaid expansion years ago and helped the people of his state. Instead, he continually flip-flopped on the issue and now more than a million Floridians will face the consequences.