Florida Governor Scott Drops Opposition to Health Law

Thursday, 15 Nov 2012 08:09 AM

 

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Florida Governor Rick Scott dropped his opposition to President Barack Obama’s health overhaul, saying he wants to negotiate on the issue that began his political career.

“I don’t think anyone involved in trying to improve health care should say, ’no, no, no,’” Scott, a 59-year-old Republican, told the Associated Press. “Let’s have a conversation.”

Scott’s conversion came one week after Election Day, when Florida voters supported Obama’s re-election and struck down a constitutional amendment aimed at making it harder to implement the health law. Governors in just 13 states committed before the election to building their own insurance exchanges, which the law requires to provide medical coverage to the uninsured. If states fail to act, the federal government will create them.

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Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, a Republican, said in a news release yesterday that his state won’t create an exchange.

Mellisa Sellers, Scott’s communications director, didn’t return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment about the governor’s position today.

While states have until Dec. 14 to say whether they plan to build their own marketplaces, hospital chains like HCA Holdings Inc. and insurers including UnitedHealth Group Inc., the biggest private provider of health benefits, have spent millions on technology, marketing and planning to prepare.

Helping Hospitals

Obama’s re-election rallied shares of hospital chains, including HCA, where Scott was once chief executive officer, on prospects for millions of newly insured patients being added to their rolls. UnitedHealth, WellPoint Inc. and other insurers declined as the industry faced profit limits and new taxes to help pay for the coverage expansion.

At Scott’s direction, Florida was the second-most-populous state to oppose changes under the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, including an option to expand Medicaid eligibility. Nearly 20 percent of Florida’s 19 million residents didn’t have health insurance in 2011, a rate surpassed only by Texas, Nevada and Louisiana, Census data show.

Scott founded and financed the nonprofit Conservatives for Patients Rights in 2009 to oppose Obama’s health-insurance changes. In April 2010, one month after Obama signed the changes into law, Scott announced his candidacy for governor, the first office he sought, and spent $73 million of his own on the race.

Coining Words

As governor, Scott has opposed much of Obama’s policy, using terms including “Obamacare,” “Obamacrats,” “Obama math” and “Obama rail” to describe the president’s agenda.

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Last year, Scott told the Palm Beach Post editorial board that the changes weren’t law.

“It’s not the law of the land,” Scott told the newspaper in November 2011. “I don’t believe it will ever be the law of the land.”

After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld most of the law on June 28, Scott said Florida wouldn’t implement it because it would be “devastating” for patients and for the economy.

“We’re not going to implement Obamacare in Florida,” Scott told Fox News after the ruling. “We’re not going to expand Medicaid because we’re going to do the right thing.”


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