Florida Governor Rick Scott, after turning yesterday's Washington DC meeting with Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius into a politically twisted Game of Chicken, today faces new questions regarding seemingly intentional efforts to mislead the general public about the cost of federal health reform to the state and its taxpayers.
The governor emerged from his meeting with Sibelius and gave every indication of holding timely implementation of Obamacare hostage to his own controversial health care agenda. Speaking to reporters afterwards, he focused on gaining federal approval for the Florida GOP's plan to force 3+ million Medicaid recipients into restrictive managed care plans - plans widely opposed as thinly veiled efforts to cut costs by limiting access and quality of health care services for disabled, elderly and poverty-stricken Floridians.
The wildly unpopular but still wildly rich governor is already running hard for reelection in 2014. In fending off reporter's questions about implementing Obamacare, he revealed a key reelection strategy component. Clearly banking on using his own mega-millions once again to fire up and win every last anti-Obama/Obamacare vote, he wants to first force a "win" out of the administration on Medicaid managed care. If he succeeds, then he proceeds slowly with a "My Way" version of implementing health reform. If he fails, he points to having fought the fight, and uses the loss as justification for moving forward at...well, imagine the pace of a very stubborn snail who really doesn't want to move an inch in the first place.
The fact that the governor of a state with one of the worst health care crisis situations in America would defer and delay solutions in order to try squeezing out a political victory for a program that might very well worsen the crisis...is worth noting, and remembering.
And speaking of facts worth noting and remembering, the governor is also proving that when they get in the way of his agenda, he has people rewrite them and has no shame about sharing that manufactured disinformation far and wide.
A series of just-released emails obtained by public media organization Health News Florida suggests that the governor has knowingly been using demonstrably inaccurate, discredited estimates of the expense involved in gradually expanding the state's Medicaid health insurance program to cover most of its 4 million or so uninsured citizens - a linchpin of health reform, intended to rein in runaway health care costs over time by finally insuring all Americans.
With more than one in every five residents uninsured, Florida ranks third worst in the nation, leaving middle class taxpayers and small businesses to pay higher premiums and assorted government fees to help cover the cost of uncompensated Emergency Room and hospital care provided to all those millions of uninsured Floridians.
Gov. Scott has for weeks been claiming that solving the crisis through expansion of Medicaid would cost over $63 billion, with $26 billion of the bill supposedly falling on Florida taxpayers. As these newly revealed emails now show, those numbers were arrived at in a very...interesting way; by pretending that the 100-percent of Medicaid expansion costs required by law to be covered by the federal government from 2014-2016, and the ninety percent required by law to be covered by the federal government thereafter, would instead be only 58%, a figure that Scott's "analysts" chose as an average from the past 20 years, before passage of the new law.
What's even worse than Scott's political calculation to arrive at such a blatantly rigged fiscal calculation, is the decision to ignore warnings from within his own administration that release of these unethically arrived at and erroneous projections would not only be wrong, but against the law - because an official FL government budget projection cannot simply choose to omit a legally binding statutory commitment by the Feds to cover specified percentages of a program's costs to a state.
Gov. Scott not only ignored the warnings, he not only released the false projections; he for weeks has publicly repeated them to the media and general public, all but promoting the big lie as legitimate rationale for his refusal to move forward with implementation of the new law, and with the first steps on the road towards solution of the state's health care crisis.
Oh yes, and the governor would like your vote in 2014.