Florida Gov. Scott Joins Medicaid Flip-Floppers Club

Watch out John Kasich, the White House may have a new favorite GOP governor. Just weeks after his face-to-face meeting with HHS Secretary Sebelius where he explained that Medicaid expansion would cost the Sunshine State a whopping $26 billion over the next decade, Governor Rick Scott is now welcoming the expansion with open arms.

As a result of the Supreme Court’s June 2012 Obamacare decision, states have the option to expand this failing, fraud-ridden program. Right now, it is imperative that conservative state leaders take a stand by saying “NO.” Governor Scott seemed to understand this back in July, when he clearly explained why both insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion are wrong for Florida:

“Floridians are interested in jobs and economic growth,” Governor Scott said. “Neither of these major provisions in Obamacare will achieve those goals, and since Florida is legally allowed to opt out, that’s the right decision for our citizens.”

While his flip-flop may help him curry favor with left-leaning voters in advance of his reelection campaign, it also casts a shadow of doubt over his status as a dependable taxpayer ally.

Medicaid expansion, as I’ve recently discussed, poses immense risk to state and federal budgets. It’s a government program already on the brink of collapse with low reimbursement rates and payment delays, not to mention rampant fraud (the improper payment rate in 2008 was 10.5 percent). Scott has to know that by expanding Medicaid to an additional 1 million Floridians, these problems will only get worse.

At the state level, Florida is already struggling to pay for Medicaid. While the federal government picks up the tab for the first three years and then promises to cover 90 percent of the expansion, the Sunshine State will still be responsible for a whopping $1.4 billion from 2014-2022. Tax hikes anyone? And this assumes that the debt-plagued federal government will follow through on its financial promise -- Obama has already proposed scaling back federal match rates starting in 2017.

The law will also have disastrous effects at the federal level. According to a recent report from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, full-scale Medicaid expansion will cost the federal government $800 billion between now and 2022. Thanks to Governor Scott’s wobbly-kneed approach to the health care law, federal spending will increase by an estimated $20.3 billion through 2022 to cover Florida’s tab, according to the Heritage Foundation. However, that money is not “free”: current and future Florida taxpayers would still have to bear part of this burden (and that of other state expansions) on their federal tax returns. Instead of increasing the size and reach of the federal government, state officials should seize this opportunity to rein in Washington’s dangerous spending habit.

By calling for expansion of Medicaid under the health care law, Governor Scott has spurned the Florida taxpayers that put him in office and disappointed many more across the country. Expanding Medicaid would make Florida a co-owner of the government’s dramatic expansion into the health care system and demonstrate true fiscal irresponsibility.  Hopefully, legislators in the Sunshine State will see the light and reject Governor Scott’s proposed expansion.