Gov. Rick Scott stands by two misleading campaign ads on Obamacare

Published April 9, 2014

MIAMI — Gov. Rick Scott is standing by two misleading campaign ads that falsely suggest 300,000 people in the state already lost their health insurance plans due to Obamacare.

"Clearly, the ad's accurate," Scott told reporters Wednesday in Miami, declining to elaborate.

The insurance company at the center of Scott's claim, Florida Blue, said in an email that the Affordable Care Act has not resulted in 300,000 of its customers being forced out of their plans.

"To date, most of the members in our pre-ACA plans have kept their plans," Florida Blue spokesman Paul Kluding said in a recent public statement.

Kluding noted that some customers chose to leave their old plans because new Obamacare plans offered a better deal "either because of potential subsidies, or because they would benefit from the new coverages and/or better premiums."

"Technically, there were a couple of hundred members with unique plans that were not continued. We chose to migrate those plans to new ACA-compliant ones instead of making changes to their existing benefits," he said. "Other than those unique members, no one else lost coverage due to the ACA."

Based on the statements from Florida Blue, PolitiFact Florida, a joint fact-checking website by the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald, rated Scott's campaign ad Mostly False for saying "300,000 health plans canceled."

After PolitiFact's analysis, Scott's political committee released a new ad Monday that essentially repeats the misstatement with this line: "300,000 in Florida lost coverage."

Neither ad mentions Obama Administration figures that show more than 442,000 Floridians selected an Obamacare plan as of March 1. The administration plans to announce more figures for Florida soon.

Both ads attempt to use the unpopular Affordable Care Act as a vehicle to attack Scott's Democratic rival, Charlie Crist.

The issue of the potential cancellations arose last fall when Florida Blue — the state's largest individual health insurance company — said about 300,000 plans didn't comply with the robust coverage standards of the Affordable Care Act.

Those and other plans would have been canceled, but they were allowed to remain for all of 2014 due to a request from President Barack Obama. Those plans could be canceled in 2015.

"It is important to note that the '300,000' was a number that was being used when describing how many Florida Blue members could receive a notice that their policies would not be compliant with ACA requirements throughout all of 2014, if no extension was provided to these plans," Kluding's Florida Blue statement said.

"In actuality, only 40,000 letters were mailed to members with Jan. 1, 2014, effective dates. Subsequent notices were sent to these members notifying them that their existing plans would remain active and unchanged through 2014."

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Still, the fact that these and other plans were going to be terminated under Obamacare earned the president PolitiFact's "Lie of the Year" for 2013 because he had falsely and repeatedly said people could keep their health insurance plans if they like them.

Scott hadn't been questioned about his ads by reporters until Wednesday when he made a stop at the Armando Badia Senior Center in Miami-Dade, where he met with seniors who complained about rising costs associated with their Medicare Advantage plans.

Some of the staff also asked for more financial help at the center. Scott last year vetoed a $1 million item in the state budget that sought to pay for an expansion at the center, however it didn't affect senior meals or services.

Scott didn't mention his veto and focused exclusively on Medicare Advantage, a privately run alternative to traditional Medicare. Advantage plans were supposed to cost less than traditional Medicare but, on a per-recipient basis, they cost more.

Medicare Advantage faces federal cuts to help fund Obamacare. But Obama this week announced he was halting the cuts.

Scott, however, said the private companies that run the program are already cutting back as a result of Obamacare.

"As they cut these Medicare Advantage programs, what's going to happen is people are going to lose their doctors, they're going to pay more out of pocket for their (pharmaceuticals), their premiums are going to go up," Scott said.

Scott also falsely claimed the Congressional Budget Office said that "2.5 million people are going to lose their jobs" as a result of Obamacare. The head of the CBO has specifically denied that characterization.

The CBO report instead said that, because of Obamacare, more Americans in the future will choose to work less so that the cumulative hours of work they don't do would be the equivalent of 2.5 million jobs.

Unlike his ads, Scott has been more careful when he speaks publicly about the cancellation issue.

"We were already told last fall that 300,000 Floridians were going to lose their insurance," Scott said.

When Scott was questioned about why his ads say 300,000 people already lost their insurance when they really didn't, Scott demurred.

"If you look, around the state, Obamacare has had an impact on a lot of people's plans. They're losing their doctors. And they're losing their plans," Scott said, as an aide started to end the press availability.

"Have a great day," Scott said.