Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a long-time critic of Pres. Obama’s health care law, announced on Wednesday evening that the state would support a three-year Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
"I was a strong advocate for better ways to run health care,” Scott said during a press conference Wednesday. "I believe in a different approach, but regardless of what I believe, or anyone else, a Supreme Court decision and the election last November made the president's health care decision the law of the land."
Scott said that the move was temporary and would last for three years as long as the federal government fulfilled its funding agreement to pay for the cost of the expansion. He said expanding Medicaid on a three-year trial would give state leaders time to judge how the expansion would impact cost, quality and the accessibility to health care. But he added that the state would not deny new Medicaid recipients health care after trial period ends.
Scott said he has talked to state legislative leaders and asked them to support the Medicaid authorization. When questioned at the press conference he said he made clear what he would like to see happen, and believes that the state legislature will do it.
“Governor Scott has made his decision and I certainly respect his thoughts. However, the Florida Legislature will make the ultimate decision," state GOP House Speaker Will Weatherford said in a statement Wednesday. "I am personally skeptical that this inflexible law will improve the quality of healthcare in our state and ensure our long-term financial stability."
While the state will expand Medicaid, Scott said that they would not agree to setup a health care exchange under the Affordable Care Act. Scott also said that he still had questions about the health care law but called the three-year Medicaid expansion a "compassionate, common sense step forward." He stressed that the move was not "a white flag of surrender to government-run health care."
Scott repeatedly referenced his mother, who passed away in November, saying that "losing someone so to you puts everything in a new perspective, especially big decisions."
The federal government announced Wednesday that it had agreed to grant Florida the second of two waivers. Scott said he did not commit to the Medicaid expansion when he discussed the waivers with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in January.
Scott has repeatedly spoken against the president's health care law, and has been criticized by some pundits recently for shifting away from some of his previous positions, including expanding voting days and increasing teacher pay.