1. Florida Politics

Romano: Gov. Rick Scott silent on jobs Obamacare would provide

Published Jul. 2, 2014

Once there was a businessman who wanted to be governor.

He talked about a lot of things on the campaign trail, but there were two issues that came up with rigid regularity.

One was health care.

The other was jobs.

Rick Scott, as a candidate, liked to link the two together. The Affordable Care Act, he insisted, was a horrendous idea that would kill jobs. If you listened to Scott long enough, you got the feeling that Obamacare would lead to the end of Western civilization.

Rick Scott, as a governor, has been less inclined to talk about health care. And he almost never links it to the state's workforce. If you follow Scott long enough, you might think he is completely happy with health care in Florida.

Why the change in tenor?

In his heart, Scott might still despise Obamacare, but it seems he no longer wants to debate it. He dodges questions and has toned down his talking points.

Is it possible his certitude has been shaken?

I ask only because the opposition is beginning to speak up. The Council of Economic Advisers released a study on Wednesday that suggested Florida's refusal to expand Medicaid — a key component of the president's health care plan — is actually costing the state more than 63,000 jobs in the next three years.

Granted, this was a study produced by a White House group, and so there will be accusations of partisan mathematics.

But this report is not an outlier. The Florida Hospital Association commissioned a similar study by the University of Florida last year; it predicted that Obamacare would create about 122,000 jobs by 2023. Furthermore, these would be higher-paying job opportunities than we are accustomed to seeing in Florida.

And now the governor, whose mantra has been job creation, is faced with explaining why the state would willingly pass up tens of thousands of desirable jobs, not to mention why it would fail to provide preventive health care for poverty-level residents.

You might recall that the governor seemed to recognize the benefits of Medicaid expansion last year when he reversed his position and endorsed the acceptance of federal funds.

But the problem is, he has never followed up.

He never lobbied the Legislature, which made the ultimate decision on Medicaid expansion. He never called out the state House, which blocked a Senate plan to use federal funds to purchase health insurance for the needy.

He never took his case to the residents of Florida, who are still paying for the uninsured through expensive safety net programs without any of the job benefits.

I can appreciate that the governor is in a sticky situation. He campaigned so hard against Obamacare in 2010 that it would raise eyebrows if he actively campaigned for it in 2014.

Some might call that a flip-flop. I would suggest it is leadership.

Nearly a dozen Republican governors have championed the idea of Medicaid expansion. Instead of worrying about polls, instead of allowing the fringe of their party to dictate their decisions, instead of abandoning people in need, those governors eschewed partisan politics to do what was right for their residents.

Around here, Rick Scott no longer wants to talk about it.

His silence is our loss.

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