Scott all but threatens veto of Senate FHIX health care plan
By Steve Contorno and Mary Ellen Klas
Gov. Rick Scott all but threatened a veto Thursday of a Senate plan aimed at expanding health insurance coverage to more than 800,000 uninsured Floridians by drawing down federal money into a privately run insurance exchange.
“I’m not doing it,’’ Scott told the Herald/Times after a meeting of the Enterprise Florida board of directors in Tampa. He repeated his claim at the Senate’s Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange (FHIX) program is a tax increase but, when asked, he refused to explain how he reaches that conclusion.
“I can’t think of many health care programs that have no cost,’’ Scott said. “I mean there’s nothing free out there, right? The study out there says it’s going to cost $5 billion over the first 10 years and look at history, if you look at Medicare, how much more Medicare costs today than what they anticipated - Medicaid.”
Under the FHIX plan, the state would pay $5 billion over 10 years to draw down $50 billion in federal revenue to cover the uninsured. By contrast, the governor does not have the same complaint about using local taxpayer dollars in counties with healthcare taxing districts to spend as much as $900 million to draw down $1.2 billion in federal revenue to pay for health care for people who can't afford insurance or don't quality for it in Florida.
Under the latest proposal from Scott's Agency for Health Care Administration, the state would rely on local taxpayers to draw down the federal money to raise reimbursement rates and pay for services for patients who cannot afford their own health insurance. His office released the impact on hospitals of that proposal on Thursday.
A contrary point of view to the governor's was offered by Legislature's chief economist, Amy Baker, testified before a Senate committee last month. Baker said her analysis showed that, rather than raising taxes, the FHIX plan would result in a state surplus over time.
Here’s the full exchange between Scott and Tampa Bay Times reporter Steve Contoro in Tampa today:
Q: You said the FHIX plan is going to increase government, raise taxes. What drew you to that conclusion because the other side said that’s not true at all.”
Scott: I can’t think of many health care programs that have no cost — I mean there’s nothing free out there, right? The study out there says it’s going to cost $5 billion over the first 10 years and look at history, if you look at Medicare, how much more Medicare costs today than what they anticipated - Medicaid. When I walked into this job, the Medicaid program had been growing at 3.5 times our general revenue. We finally my first year did historic Medicaid reform where we now have a program that we can afford, the taxpayers can afford, and the recipient knows somebody is responsible for their care. For somebody to believe that the government is free doesn’t make any sense.”
Q: Is there any sort of compromise on this that could expand Medicaid in any sort of way that you’d be look at?”
Scott: We sent a letter May 12 to the Secretary of HHS Burwell with some ideas of ways if they wanted to do something to take care of more people but not where it costs the state more dollars. What people have to understand, we just fixed this. I walked in with a $4 billion budget deficit. We’ve turned our economy around. Now we have a surplus. We can’t go back and do something that’s going to cause people to raise taxes again. We need to figure out how to make government smaller. The best thing you can do for a family: give them a job. That’s what we’ve done. … (Goes on to talk about expanding business base)
Q: How do you get to a budget then, because the Senate seems to be throwing out ideas and digging in their heals on something that’s going to expand Medicaid or compromise on that?”
Scott: They’re welcome to just pass my budget. I’m going to continue to work with them. But the House and the Senate, their responsibility under the constitution is to pass a budget by the end of June.
Q: So the plan that they’re floating right now is a nonstarter for you.”
Scott: I’m not going to support raising taxes on our citizens. I’m not doing it. We’ve worked hard to turn this economy around. Our citizens deserve tax deductions, not tax increases. They deserve an education system that makes sure their child can live the dream of America.
Q: You won’t you need to raise taxes or cut back on services further if you don’t get the funding from the federal government that you need (for LIP)?”
Scott: If you look at the letter that AHCA sent to HHS yesterday memorializing the conversations they’ve had which says that basically they’ll have all the money, they won’t need any general revenue money to deal with what the federal government is considering doing.
The same federal government that’s trying to push to expand Obamacare is walking away from a healthcare program for the poor, and it’s different groups of people. Why don’t people think that’s a problem? They’re walking away from a program for the poor. But if you look at the letter AHCA sent to HHS, the proposal that HHS has given us and the conversations that AHCA has had with HHS explains it will not take any general revenue.
And you have to remember our hospitals made $3.7 billion last year. That’s why I think this commission we put together is really looking at transparency, how those dollars are being spent. We all understand health care is getting too expensive. When health care gets more expensive it reduces access.
So are we still looking at a continuation budget?
I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll have a budget that’s good for all of our citizens. But I’m going to do everything I can to make sure we keep critical services going.
We should be excited about what’s going on in our state. (talked about all the positive things going on)