Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Opinion

Scott on health care: Give this man a truth tonic

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Throughout Rick Scott's governorship he has had a tenuous relationship with the truth. It's beyond Stephen Colbert's truthiness. If facts don't serve Scott's purpose, he revises them until they do.

Maybe this penchant started as a businessman when he led the Columbia/HCA hospital chain while it engaged in massive Medicare and Medicaid fraud; the company later pleaded guilty to at least 14 corporate felonies. Scott maintains that he didn't know what was going on.

Maybe he broke ranks with the truth after invoking his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination 75 times during a deposition that otherwise requires the subject to be honest.

But whenever Scott decided that the truth is just not his cup of tediousness, his predilection for making stuff up has been on full display since the federal health care law was largely upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last month.

Scott clearly hates the law. He is refusing to enforce its key provisions in Florida, including the expansion of Medicaid to more than 1 million additional poor, uninsured adults in the state. The cost would be borne in large measure by the federal government, bringing billions of federal dollars into the state. But it's not for him.

For a man who is among cable television's go-to opponents of "Obamacare," Scott's objections suggest that he has only a vague idea of what the law actually does. The Tampa Bay Times' PolitiFact double-checked the claims Scott made as he traveled the media circuit after the decision, including his appearances on Fox News and CNN. His statements were all deemed "False" or "Pants on Fire" distortions, including his assertions that the Medicaid expansion would cost Florida an additional $1.9 billion a year, that the law would lead to rationed care, and that small businesses with 20 employees would be forced to buy health insurance.

For small businesses the Affordable Care Act is not a burden. It's a substantial benefit. Companies with under 25 workers that choose to provide health coverage can qualify for tax credits of up to 35 percent of premium costs, increasing to 50 percent in 2014. Companies with under 50 workers suffer no consequences for not buying health coverage. Does that sound antibusiness or "job killing," as Scott claims?

Certainly, reasonable people can disagree over various aspects of the new health care law. It's a complicated act that tries to fix the current inefficient, under-inclusive health care system through consumer-oriented regulations on private insurers, government subsidies and some (but not enough) cost containment measures. Debate is welcome, even valuable as long as the old Daniel Patrick Moynihan caveat stands: Everyone can have his own opinion, but not his own facts.

Scott is the anti-Moynihan who makes rhetorical points by ignoring inconvenient holes in his argument. For instance, Scott complains that the law will lead to rationed care like that found in Canada and the United Kingdom (again, ruled "False" by PolitiFact) but he fails to mention how care is currently rationed in the United States.

Insurers ration care by denying coverage, rejecting claims and deciding which doctors and hospitals to accept. Sufferers of chronic conditions worry about reaching their policy's annual or lifetime limits. People without any insurance face the ultimate rationing.

Scott complains that health reform will put American businesses at an "unbelievable disadvantage" compared with international competitors. But he doesn't mention the anticompetitive environment American businesses face now by being saddled with health insurance costs not similarly borne by competitors from nations with universal health care. And if competitive disadvantage were Scott's primary concern, he should support Medicare for all, which he doesn't.

Scott wants to leave health care to the free market and let people buy any kind of policy they want (and can afford), essentially the system we have now but with fewer limits on insurers. It's no wonder he has trouble defending his stance with facts.

As a former health care executive Scott could have helped lead an intelligent conversation on health reform. Scott chose instead to speak alarmist nonsense, leaving Florida's uninsured and the truth behind.

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