Rick Scott Says He Will Sue Obama Administration Over Medicaid Hardball

The Florida governor announced Thursday that he will take legal action as negotiations with CMS stall.

Florida Governor Rick Scott is pictured. Erik Kellar/Getty Images
National Journal
April 16, 2015, 7:49 a.m.

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.

(RE­LATED: Things Got Weird In Flor­ida When a Medi­caid Of­fi­cial Went Miss­ing)

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.”

(RE­LATED: Rick Scott Walks Back Medi­caid-Ex­pan­sion Sup­port Amid Tense CMS Talks)

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.”

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