Gov. Rick Scott expressed confidence that the U.S. Supreme Court, expected to rule anyday, will side with Florida and 25 other states in their challenge to federal health care reform. Calling the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act a "disaster for patients," Scott also made it clear that Florida wouldn't hustle to implement the law's provisions even if the High Court upholds the law.
"I'm very optimistic that either the Supreme Court will declare it unconstitutional or it will get repealed prior to the time that we have to implement the law," Scott said today.
The governor talked about health care reform and the ramifications of a Supreme Court ruling during a conference call sponsored by State Policy Network (a free market think tank), Franklin Center for Government Policy and Public Integrity (a right-of-center media training organization), and Americans for Tax Reform (advocacy organization founded by Grover Norquist).
Scott said that even if the Supreme Court sides with the federal government, he would remain hopeful that Mitt Romney is elected president and overturns provisions of the Affordable Care Act or Congress acts to repeal it. In the meantime, Florida will continue to resist implementation until it is clear "Obamacare" is "the law of the land," he said.
The governor said he isn't concerned about the billions of dollars in federal funding that Florida would no longer receive if the law is struck down. Under health care reform, states will be allocated additional money to increase the number of low-income residents who are served by Medicaid and to pay doctors more for provide services.
These provisions of the Affordable Care Act do more harm than good, Scott said.
"Because the cost is so high, it raises taxes which impacts businesses, it impacts jobs," he said. "So the real cost is going to be if its declared unconstitutional and not repealed."
He was also critical of a component of health care reform that calls for the creation of health exchanges so consumers can compare prices and buy insurance under the individual mandate. So far, Florida has refused to accept money from the federal government to assist with the implementation of health exchanges. If those provisions are struck down by the Supreme Court, Florida wouldn't pick up that mantle, Scott said.
"If there is no obligation to doing an exchange, Florida won't be doing an exchange," the governor said. "My personal belief is that an exchange was going to be helpful then the private sector would be already doing it."
However, Florida's version of health exchanges, called Florida Health Choices, is already underway. The program was created by the Legislature in 2008 and signed into law by then Gov. Charlie Crist.
Florida's program is geared toward small businesses and it doesn't have the individual mandate that has brought so much criticism to the federal program. For those reasons and others, Florida Health Choices would not qualify as a state insurance exchange under the federal health care reform law. But the programs are similar and Florida's health exchanges could be adapted to meet Obamacare standards if the state is required to do so.
After hearing about Scott's comments, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, repleased the following statement criticizing the governor's unwillingness to embrace health care reform:
"The Affordable Care Act has been in effect under the law notwithstanding Gov. Scott's personal view. He has acted in contravention to the law and cost Florida taxpayers dearly to the tune of more than $500 million, according to press reports ... Consider how that money could have helped millions of Floridians while also boosting our struggling economy. In addition, the Act strengthened Medicare, instituted important consumer protections and addressed Florida's doctor shortage. If the ACA is overturned it is likely that people and businesses with health insurance will pay a larger share for those who do not – a harsh prescription for Florida families and businesses. It is also important to note that the health care law already is the law of the land. There has been no injunction, no stay. Nullification was rejected long ago."