Gov. Rick Scott opposes the federal health care law, and he wants the world to know it.
So he embarked on a media blitz over the weekend, appearing on Fox News, CNN and Monday, he hosted CNBCs Squawk Box. At each stop, he announced that he had no intention of expanding Medicaid, a health insurance program for the very poor.
He also said he wouldnt allow the state to open health insurance exchanges, places where consumers will comparison shop for health insurance.
But in expressing his strong opposition to the Affordable Care Act, Scott also got his facts wrong. He gave a misleading account of how much the Medicaid expansion would cost the state, badly misrepresented requirements on small businesses and used a widely debunked talking point about rationing.
Scott entered the political realm in 2009 by heading up Conservatives for Patients Rights, a group that attacked President Barack Obamas health care proposals. PolitiFact Florida previously has fact-checked several inaccurate comments from Scott about the Affordable Care Act, including that it is not the law of the land, that it will be the biggest job-killer ever and that it is the biggest tax increase in the history of the United States. (All were rated False.)
Scott actually fared worse on the Truth-O-Meter this time.
One of the reasons Scott announced that Florida would opt out of an expansion to Medicaid is that it would cost the state an additional $1.9 billion a year. He repeated the figure at least four times in national television interviews, and again in a press release.
Dont believe it.
Scotts Medicaid figure is an oversimplified estimate that relies on several assumptions and ignores how the Medicaid expansion would actually be implemented as part of the health care law. Even if you believe the assumptions and ignore how the law would be implemented, Scott is still quoting the wrong number, according to the most recent estimate created by his own Agency for Health Care Administration.
The health care law required states to expand eligibility to Medicaid by raising income eligibility limits to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. States currently have widely varying thresholds depending on a persons age and situation, and Florida has some of the strictest thresholds in the country. For instance, childless adults cannot receive Medicaid in Florida, and parents who have children must make less than 22 percent of the federal poverty level to receive Medicaid.
The federal government agreed to fund 100 percent of the cost for states to expand Medicaid for three budget years. It would then cover 95 percent of the costs in 2017, 94 percent of the costs in 2018, 93 percent of the costs in 2019 and 90 percent of the costs in 2020 and beyond.
The expansion was technically voluntary, but the federal government said it would penalize any state (by withholding Medicaid funds) that failed to comply. That penalty was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The courts ruling allows states like Florida to decline expansion without losing any current federal funding.
That brings us back to Scott.
The most recent estimate from the state health care agency from January 2012 says a series of changes to Medicaid could wind up costing about $1.4 billion a year, but that number includes several things beyond the expansion to Medicaid that Scott was talking about.