Florida Governor Rick Scott (AP)
There must be something in the drinking water in Tallahassee, Florida. That’s the only explanation for Governor Rick Scott’s decision to accept Obamacare funding for Medicaid – a dramatic reversal in policy and a forceful move to the left. Scott, like his predecessor Charlie Crist, has chosen to substitute political convenience for political courage.
Scott’s abrupt announcement to accept the Medicaid funding Wednesday was careless, cowardly, and incredibly convenient, given the fact that he’s up for re-election next year and his approval rating is hovering around an abysmal 30 percent.
Scott has embarked down a dangerous road that will make the prosperous, thriving state of Florida look more like the floundering, bankrupt state of California.
As wonderful and benevolent as the Medicaid expansion sounds, the economics of it simply do not work.
The Florida Medical Association noted that expansion will add one million more patients to Florida’s Medicaid rolls. This comes at a time when Florida is experiencing a severe doctors shortage; 5,600 of the state’s 44,804 doctors are expected to retire over the next five years, and only 59 percent of those doctors are accepting new Medicaid patients. Moreover, Kathleen Haughney of the Sun Sentinel writes, “And even though Florida has opened three new medical schools in the past dozen years, the state isn't producing as many doctors as it needs.”
So why is now the time to dramatically increase healthcare demand?
It’s not. And as politically convenient as it may be to say you’ve insured one million new Floridians, it’s anything but politically courageous.
To make matters worse, Scott insists that the burden for expanding Medicaid will not fall on taxpayers since he’s only agreed to expand the program for the three years that the federal government is guaranteed to subsidize the expansion.
One problem with this plan – history tells us otherwise.
Once you expand an entitlement, you can never take it away. When three years pass and federal funding dries up, will Florida suddenly deny one million people healthcare? No. Florida will continue providing Medicaid to new recipients, but this time Florida taxpayers will be left with the bill.
Voters elected Scott for his staunch conservative principles and his outspoken criticism of Obamacare’s overreach. For years, Scott governed as he campaigned – speaking candidly about the dangers of Obamacare and refusing to accept federal funding for Medicaid. His own state of Florida was even one of the states that participated in the Obamacare lawsuit.
In an astonishing about face, bailing on conservatism is now Scott’s order of the day.
It is sad, unfortunate, and all-too-common that we see our last bulwark against President Obama’s agenda – the Republican governors and GOP House—sacrifice their principles at the first sign of trouble. From the fiscal cliff to the debt ceiling to the fight against Obamacare, conservatism is always thrown under the bus.
Our party needs more staunch conservatives like Scott Walker, Terry Branstad, and Bobby Jindal, three governors who have rejected Medicaid funding, and Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee, three senators who voted against the fiscal cliff deal.
These are true leaders.
If our elected Republican officials want to govern like Democrats, vote like Democrats, and talk like Democrats, perhaps – like Charlie Crist—it’s time they become Democrats.