Governor Rick Scott of Florida originally decided that his state would not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, despite the federal money that it would bring to the state. Then, in 2013, he switched his position, saying that Florida would expand Medicaid, but he couldn’t get the state legislature to agree. Now, in 2015, he’s flip-flopped back to saying he won’t expand Medicaid.
What happened? Well, Scott’s priorities this legislative session are, according to Talking Points Memo:
Our priority is to cut more than $600 million in taxes this session and get K-12 education funding up to record levels while holding the line on college tuition. We still have several weeks left for budget negotiations; however, given that the federal government said they would not fund the federal [Low Income Pool] 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.
In short, he doesn’t trust that the federal government will keep its word on funding states’ Medicaid expansions. However, one has to ask why he thinks cutting $600 million in taxes will allow the state to fund its schools up to record levels. That’s the same delusional thinking that got Kansas into trouble.
In 2013, USAToday published the results of a report showing just how much money the states refusing Medicaid expansion would lose over the next decade. Texas, for instance, stood to lose nearly $10 billion. Florida stood to lose $5 billion. The lead author of the study said that there were no states where taxpayers could win without a Medicaid expansion.
The federal money spent on Medicaid goes directly to local hospitals and health care providers. Because of that, there’s little reason not to expand the program, and is why some Republican governors went for it despite their opposition to the Affordable Care Act and government spending. Also, residents of all states are paying taxes to support the federal program, but those who live in states that opted out of expanding Medicaid aren’t getting the extra benefit.
Besides all that, Scott’s double flip-flop on this issue shows that he can have trouble with decisions. There’s nothing wrong with a politician changing his position on an issue as new information becomes available. Knowing when to stand firm, and when to be flexible, is the mark of a good leader. But too many flip-flops on a single issue just shows voters that they can’t trust you.
It could also show Florida voters that he puts his own political ambitions above the needs of his state. But that’s not surprising; most of our politicians do that. Republicans are especially good at it these days.