Why This Republican Governor Made the Switch to Support Obamacare
Most Floridians know Solantic. Before the media introduced its founder to the country, people in Florida began to instinctively recognize the blue, red and yellow McDonalds-style healthcare menus. They'd push through the clinic doors, point to a menu option:
- Strep Test
- Pregnancy Test
...and slump into a plastic chair, watching the school clock as its secondhand ticked. Eventually, a clipboard would appear through the swinging door. In a new chair, the clipboard would deposit a thermometer and pump a blood-pressure cuff tight—then disappear. Cash or credit and back to the parking lot. Solantic quickly became the easy choice for fast health care in Florida.
The man behind the chain of Solantic Urgent Care Centers is common nowadays. He's the Florida Governor, of course, Rick Scott.
At this point, Scott's connection with private health care isn't news. But understanding the intimate experience Floridians have with Scott's relationship with the industry is essential in grasping how 1.3 million uninsured Floridians may have felt when they woke up this morning with the promise of Medicaid in their futures.
Scott announced yesterday that Florida would accept federal funding associated with an optional portion of the Affordable Care Act to enroll more low-income people in Medicaid for at least three years—after spending years and millions of his own fortune fighting the healthcare law. Scott is the seventh Republican governor to back Medicaid expansion.
This is good news for low-income and young people.
"If states extend Medicaid to cover up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, equivalent to a single person working full-time at minimum wage, young adults will have access to affordable coverage," Anna Strongs, director of health care policy for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, told Campus Progress in discussing how expanding Medicaid would close the youth coverage gap. "Students could get preventive care, as could young adults who are between jobs or working a dream job that doesn't offer benefits."
Currently, a single parent with two children doesn't qualify for Medicaid in Florida if he or she makes more than $3,200 a year. The expansion increased this limit to anyone who earns up to $15,282 as a single person.
The Medicaid expansion "will provide nearly all young adults across the income spectrum with affordable and comprehensive health plans," according to a report by the Commonwealth Fund.
But many young people in Florida remember that Scott spent the last few years tossing $5 million of his own money toward blocking Obamacare. They also remember that he doesn't have a history of crafting healthcare policy for the people.
Scott fled his first corporate affair, Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp, in 1997, four months after federal agents launched an investigation into the $20 billion company to see if the hospital chain had defrauded the Medicare and Medicaid systems via false tests and diagnoses charges.
And in 2011 Scott mandated that all state employees and Welfare recipients to take and pass drug screenings. For $35 a pop, Solantic would gladly conduct them and to evade accusations of directly benefiting from the deal Scott transferred the controlling shares of the $62 million company before he took office—to his wife.
Though his decision to expand Medicaid in Florida is good for young people, a look at his checkered past with insurance companies begs this question: What's in it for Scott?
While he's up for a tough re-election campaign in 2014 with recent poll numbers showing a 33 percent approval rating with 57 percent of voters, Scott ekes green and the expansion seems beyond strict maneuver for votes.
One clear thing is that traditional Medicaid doesn't pay for Solantic's fast health care. Remember, he opposed the expansion for years. But it seems he created a roundabout while also working to bolster public opinion through the popular Medicaid expansion: private managed-care plans, aka Medicaid HMOs.
The Florida Legislature approved a program to privatize Medicaid in 2011 through these plans, and Scott has been waiting for federal approval since. The Obama administration tentatively gave its approval yesterday just before Scott agreed to the Obamacare Medicaid expansion in Florida. Since privatized Medicaid HMOs do pay out to Solantic, it's now poised for an influx of new customers.
Lydia is the Journalism Network Associate with Campus Progress.
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