TAMPA — Florida Gov. Rick Scott appears to be abandoning his attempt to expand the Florida Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act.
Asked by reporters in Tampa on Wednesday whether he still thinks the state should accept the federal funding available under to expand the program, Scott didn't answer and criticized the law instead.
Scott said 300,000 Floridians will have their health insurance policies canceled at the end of this year -- even though the insurer involved, Florida Blue, has announced there will be no cancellations.
“Here's our concern about the president's health care law,” he said. “We have 300,000 people in our state that have been told they are going to lose their insurance at the end of the year. We don't know what's going to happen. We don't know if they're going to get it. We don't know what the costs are going to be.
Scott gave essentially the same answer in Tallahassee on Tuesday, saying policies will be canceled and, “That's the biggest issue we're dealing with right now.”
Asked Wednesday whether Scott still favors Medicaid expansion, spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said, “Last year the governor laid out what he supported.”
Asked whether he'll try to convince the Legislature in its session next spring to expand the program, Schutz said, “He laid out his vision last year. He said yes and the Legislature said no.”
Asked what actions Scott is planning or considering concerning the policies he said will be canceled, Schutz sent a copy of a one-paragraph public statement issued by Scott criticizing the law, saying the statement poses questions “to the White House.”
Scott, who became wealthy as a health care executive, has long been a hard-line opponent of Obamacare. He began his political career in 2009 by providing the impetus and much of the money for an advertising campaign against the reform proposal.
Despite that, he said last year he favored Florida participating in a key part of the program, which provides states money to offer Medicaid to those just above the poverty line, a step advocacy groups say would help some 1.2 million Floridians who currently have no coverage.
Florida would have received some $51 billion over 10 years to pay the entire cost of the expansion.
Scott's stance didn't sit well with some of his conservative supporters, and some legislators have said Scott made no real effort to persuade the Legislature to comply. The proposal died in the state House, and state House Speaker Will Weatherford has maintained his opposition, most recently in a Jacksonville Times-Union op-ed.
Weatherford says the federal government can't be relied on to provide funding for the expansion.
Florida is one of 25 states, most with Republican governors, that have refused to participate in the Medicaid expansion. Proponents say that refusal means millions of people will be left with little or no access to coverage, even through the subsidized insurance exchanges set up under the ACA, while hospitals will lose federal benefits intended to help them pay for treating the uninsured.
Some insurers, including Florida Blue, announced this fall that policies bought on the individual market would be cancelled at the end of this year if they didn't meet the requirements of the ACA. Florida Blue sent notices to some 300,000 policyholders on this subject.
But the company also said those policyholders would be moved to new policies rather than losing coverage, or could choose a new policy, or could find coverage, possibly with a subsidy under the ACA, through the health care exchange set up under the law.
In mid-November, following controversy over the changes, President Barack Obama said the requirement that policies meet the law's requirements would be delayed for a year, and Florida Blue announced the policies would remain in effect through 2014.
Reporter José Patiño Girona contributed to this report.