As his fellow Republicans in the Florida Legislature battle over expanding Medicaid to 800,000 low-income state residents, newly re-elected Gov. Rick Scott has hardly been heard from on the most important healthcare issue facing his state.
The GOP-controlled Senate has passed a bill expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act through a conservative-friendly private-plan model.
It features work requirements and a six-month cutoff for beneficiaries who don't pay their premiums. The measure has strong support from hospital and business groups.
But any Medicaid expansion is unpalatable to the more ideological Republican-controlled House, where Budget Committee Chairman Richard Corcoran took shots Thursday at the hospital industry, which he accused of price-gouging. He declared war on “all the Gucci-loafing, shoe-wearing special interest powers” that want Medicaid expansion.
You might think that Scott, who formerly headed Columbia/HCA, the nation's largest investor-owned hospital chain, would be sympathetic to the arguments of hospitals about the need for expanding Medicaid to help them care for Florida's huge population of poor and uninsured people. He previously has indicated his support for the expansion while strongly opposing the Affordable Care Act.
But unlike a number of conservative Republican governors in other states, he has done very little to advance the cause of Medicaid expansion.
In contrast, then-Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, then-Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence put their political necks on the line to push through Medicaid expansion in their states. They prevailed over fierce opposition from the same conservative groups backed by the billionaire Koch brothers that are currently fighting expansion in Florida.
So what's holding Scott back? Is he nursing presidential hopes and thinking that Medicaid expansion would scotch him with the powerful Kochs? Or is it that he just doesn't care that much?
There's still time for him to make a difference.