Gaetz said Florida cant meet Fridays deadline for submitting a plan for an exchange, but he said many states have dragged their feet on exchanges, waiting to see what happened in the election, and he thought Washington would be willing to accommodate late plans. On Friday, Washington proved him right, sending governors a letter offering states some flexibility in preparing the exchanges over the next several months.
Scott, former head of a national hospital chain, has been a strong critic of most government involvement in healthcare. Before the election, he said he was adamantly opposed to expanding Medicaid and to healthcare exchanges.
When The Herald asked the governors press office Thursday whether he had changed his mind, spokeswoman Jackie Schutz first responded by emailing an Associated Press story from Wednesday headlined: Fla. Gov. wont back down on healthcare law. The story said Scott believes the overhaul will be too expensive and would harm businesses by raising their costs.
On Friday, Schutz emailed that the governor had an additional comment, opening the door for discussion but offering no specifics. We need to focus on how Obamacare affects each of our families, Scott said. Will it increase the cost of healthcare for our families? Will it impact the quality of healthcare for our families?
Will it impact Floridians access to our healthcare system? I am looking forward to working with legislators and others on specific ways to address these issues. On Obamacare, I am concerned about how it affects patients, jobs and taxes on Floridians. The problem we need to address is why healthcare costs so much for our families, the governor said.
Gaetz said hed like to explore compromises, such as a partial expansion of Medicaid that would be less than the federal act envisioned. He also suggested using an existing insurance framework like the Florida Healthy Kids program, which offers insurance to middle-class children, as the basis for a Florida exchange.
Gaetz said he remains concerned that expanding Medicaid will mean huge unforeseen costs in the future for Florida, if Washington pulls back on its Medicaid funding, as it has done in other state-federal partnerships in the past.
Incoming-House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, also seems interested in finding a way to reconsider the states response to healthcare reform. According to a Tampa Bay Times report, he favors the state setting up its own exchange. Were not going to have a federal exchange, I can say that.
Floridians themselves have mixed feelings about healthcare reform. On Election Day, 51.5 percent of Florida voters rejected an attempt by the Republican Legislature to constitutionally prohibit any law requiring people to purchase health insurance a primary requirement in the reform act. In Miami-Dade, 55.4 percent voted no on the amendment. In Broward, it was 60.9 percent.
Even though the amendment didnt pass, Herald exit polling found that 47 percent of voters said they favored repealing some or all of the national healthcare reform law.
Meanwhile, virtually all Florida hospitals and many doctors groups support healthcare reform as the way to reduce the number of uninsured patients burdening the system, with their costs passed on through higher rates to those who do have insurance. Census surveys from 2011 show that 3.9 million Floridians are uninsured.