As recently as January 7, 2013, Florida governor Rick Scott cited a report by the Agency for Health Care Administration, as evidence the Affordable Health Care law (Obamacare) would cost Florida taxpayers $26 billion over the next ten years. He indicated the money would be needed to pay for expanding Medicaid, a government run health insurance program for the financially less fortunate.
At issue is whether the assumptions and number projections in the report are accurate and reliable. The Agency for Health Care Administration is an agency under the direction of Governor Rick Scott. The conclusions in their report are based on questionable and/or misleading assumptions, and those assumptions make the figures Governor Scott relies upon questionable and/or misleading.
One of the elements of Obamacare is the requirement of most Americans to have some form of health insurance or pay a penalty. The federal government wants to expand Medicaid coverage to cover more Americans; however, it is up to individual states to choose the option of expanding their Medicaid programs. To make the option more enticing, the federal government is offering to pick up most of the cost to expand Medicaid.
Over the past 20 years, the federal government has paid approximately 58 percent of the cost for current Medicaid recipients. Under the expansion the federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost for newly eligible Medicaid recipients for the first three years (2014 – 2016). The federal government would cover 95 percent of the cost in 2017, 94 percent of the cost in 2018, 93 percent of the cost in 2019, and 90 percent of the cost in 2020 and beyond.
The report on which Governor Rick Scott relies calculates the cost of expansion based on the federal government paying only 58 percent of those costs. In addition, the report completely ignores the graduated schedule for contribution to cover the expansion costs commencing in 2014.
There is evidence state officials were aware the conclusions rendered by the Agency for Health Care Administration pertaining to cost to the state were not accurate. Carol Gentry of Health News Florida, part of WUSF Media – an NPR station in Tampa – obtained emails from J. Eric Pridgeon of the House Health Care Appropriation Subcommittee questioning the report. On December 20, 2012, three days after the release of the report, Mr. Pridgeon wrote state agency officials saying the federal revenues for Medicaid expansion are part of Obamacare and cannot be omitted.
Michelle Dahnke, a spokesperson for the Agency for Health Care Administration said, “The state simply wanted to be as cautious as possible with its estimates.”
Melissa Sellers, a spokesperson for Governor Scott said, “Others have asked the Agency for Health Care Administration to use different assumptions to calculate different cost estimates. We look forward to reviewing those cost estimates as well.”
There will be a cost to the state for expanding Medicaid under the Obamacare option, however, it appears Governor Scott is ignoring some facts and using inflating numbers to justify the “opt-out” option.
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