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Gov. Rick Scott still mulling Medicaid expansion after health care ruling

TALLAHASSEE — For a second day, Gov. Rick Scott sidestepped questions about whether Florida would begin implementing the federal health care law now that it has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Florida has yet to set up health care "exchanges," an Internet-based system for buyers to shop for private insurance plans.

The state also must decide whether to participate in a planned expansion of the Medicaid program. The expansion could add more than 950,000 people to Florida's Medicaid rolls, with the federal government covering most, but not all, of the cost.

Scott said Friday he will have a plan in the coming weeks.

"What I'm concerned about is that what happened with that bill being declared constitutional is the fact that it's going to be bad for patients, bad for taxpayers, bad for businesses," he said Friday after a speech in Tampa. "But we'll be looking at that — the issue over the exchanges, the issue over whether we can afford to expand Medicaid."

Scott can recommend whether the state participates in the Medicaid expansion, but because the program is part of the state budget, much of the work will be left to the Legislature.

Scott spokesman Lane Wright said it would be wrong to interpret Scott's comments as saying he's leaning one way or another.

"I think he's made it clear that he hasn't made a decision yet," Wright said. "He's got policy staff looking at it, he's got legal staff looking at it. We're going to make sure we fully understand it before we decide the path that Florida will be taking on these issues."

Democrats, patients rights organizations and even some medical provider groups are lining up to urge the state to move forward.

"It is the law to expand Medicaid in Florida," said Leah Barber-Heinz, communications director for Florida CHAIN, a health advocacy organization. "We just have to make sure that Gov. Scott and public officials in Florida do the right thing."

But to Scott, the issue is affordability. The state already struggles to pay for Medicaid as it is, he told a Jacksonville talk radio station Friday morning.

"I don't know how we are going to be able to afford it," he told WOKV. "Look at how tough our budgets are now."

Times staff writer Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report. Tia Mitchell can be reached at tmitchell@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263.

Gov. Rick Scott still mulling Medicaid expansion after health care ruling 06/29/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 29, 2012 10:58pm]
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