MIAMI - It sounds like Republican Gov. Rick Scott is reverting back to his old talking points criticizing the federal health law, after he told a Pensacola radio station Wednesday the law is a "disaster." His comments come a month after the state Legislative session ended without expanding Medicaid - a move Scott pushed for.
"The president's health care law is a disaster. It's going to be bad for patients, it's going to be bad for businesses, it's going to be bad for providers. There's nobody that wins in that bill," Scott said during an interview on News Radio 1620.
He urged the federal government to give people the option of buying private insurance and to focus on keeping the cost of health care down. But Scott noticeably glossed over his about-face decision earlier this year to support Medicaid expansion. The governor unsuccessfully urged state lawmakers to accept $51 billion federal dollars to expand health care to more than 1.1 million of the state's poorest residents.
But after Wednesday's comment, it sounds like Scott is ramping up his rhetoric against the Affordable Care Act. Scott has been traveling Florida in his official capacity to promote his successes during the last legislative session and to boost his re-election campaign in some of the state's largest media markets
Scott, a former CEO of the HCA hospital chain, entered politics in 2009 running national cable TV commercials criticizing the president's plan. Florida led the way in challenging the ACA in a lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Scott also made the rounds on conservative talk shows to repeatedly express concerns that expanding Medicaid would put too much of a strain on Florida taxpayers.
But the governor's tone was noticeably softer in February when he made national headlines announcing his support for Medicaid expansion, calling it the "compassionate, common sense step forward," and not a "white flag of surrender to government-run healthcare."
Scott's press officials said Wednesday that the governor has always expressed his disagreement with the law and pointed to comments along those lines in the same February speech.
"I still worry that the government-run approach in the president's law could lead to less patient choice, worse care, and higher costs," Scott said.
But Scott's comments on the issue have, at times, sounded more in line with Democrats as he also noted in the same speech "we must also be sensitive to the needs of the poorest and the weakest among us who struggle to access affordable, high-quality care."
It was a major turn off for conservatives.
"Clearly his pre-session comments switching his position on Medicaid expansion was an area in which we had major disagreement...a game changer because of its fiscal importance. Today's comments, however, are extremely welcome and hopefully signal a return to his original policy positions regarding the government's role in healthcare. Many politicians make mistakes, few admit it and correct them," said Slade O'Brien, Florida director of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity.
State Democrats quickly seized on Scott's comments.
"In his confusion, Governor Rick Scott apparently is in dangerous denial of the many benefits that the Affordable Care Act provides for Floridians, for businesses, and for our state's economy," House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston said in a statement.
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