Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday that he will sue the Obama administration for, in his words, trying to force the state to expand Medicaid under Obamacare by threatening to cut off another stream of Medicaid funding.
It takes the tension over Florida’s negotiations with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, already high, to a new level.
“It is appalling that President Obama would cut off federal health care dollars to Florida in an effort to force our state further into Obamacare,” Scott said in a statement announcing the pending lawsuit. Scott has previously supported Medicaid expansion but reversed his position this month as the state and the administration fought over the programs.
He referenced a letter sent by CMS this week that said Medicaid expansion and $1 billion in federal funding for Florida’s low-income pool, or “LIP,” which helps cover some uncompensated care in the state, are linked in the administration’s eyes. The federal agency has repeatedly said that the LIP program would not be renewed as it currently exists.
Scott argued that linking the two programs violates federal law, citing the 2012 Supreme Court decision that made Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion optional. The Court said that the federal government could not coerce states to accept the expansion by threatening all current federal funding for the existing Medicaid program.
“Not only does President Obama’s end to LIP funding in Florida violate the law by crossing the line into a coercion tactic for Obamacare, it also threatens poor families’ access to the safety-net health care services they need,” Scott said. “The population in Florida served under the LIP program is different from the population that would be covered under any Medicaid expansion.”
CMS made its position on LIP and Medicaid expansion more explicit in this week’s letter, sent by Vikki Wachino, acting director of the Center for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, to a member of Scott’s administration.
“When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted, it established a more comprehensive approach to providing health care coverage, including Medicaid, while supporting hospitals that serve communities with the greatest needs,” Wachino wrote. “Medicaid expansion would reduce uncompensated care in the state, and therefore have an impact on the LIP, which is why the state’s expansion status is an important consideration in our approach regarding extending the LIP beyond June.”