Waiver In Hand, Florida’s Rick Scott Backs Medicaid Expansion

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday that he would back expansion of the Medicaid program under the federal health law. At a hastily-called press conference, Scott, a Republican, said he supported expanding Medicaid for three years — the amount of time the federal government picks up the whole cost.

“Expanding access to Medicaid services for three years is a compassionate, common sense step forward. It is not the end of our work to improve health care,” Scott said. “And, it is not a white flag of surrender to government-run health care.”

The move makes Scott the seventh Republican governor to back Medicaid expansion.

Florida has the nation’s third highest rate of residents without coverage, and more than 1.5 million people can expect to gain coverage with the Medicaid expansion. The governor’s support is significant, but the measure will still have to win approval in the legislature.

Tia Mitchell of the Tallahassee bureau of the The Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald was first to report Scott’s decision:

Hours after the federal government agreed to grant Florida a conditional waiver to privatize Medicaid statewide, Gov. Rick Scott appears ready to endorse a plan to conditionally expand the health care program to about 1 million Floridians or more. …

Scott previously has said that Florida cannot expand Medicaid unless the federal government approves the state’s plan to privatize the system.

Today, he got the waiver he sought.

Earlier Wednesday, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services granted Florida a waiver that will allow the state to enroll almost all of its Medicaid patients into private managed care plans. From Health News Florida’s report:

“This is a great win for Florida, and it would not have been possible without the support of legislators who began the fight for this Medicaid flexibility many months ago,” Scott said in a release.

He said it will give patients with chronic illnesses better coordination of care and help taxpayers by lowering costs.

Here’s video of Scott’s press conference, via News Service of Florida: