Rick Scott seemed fascinated with the beans.
The Florida governor grabbed a package of Goya beans off the shelf and pointed out that packages have a special lining.
“On the inside,” Scott said, “it’s an anti-static. So the beans are a little bit dusty. But you never see it. Because it [the bean dust] doesn’t attach.”
Smiling and sweeping his right hand over the package, Scott last weeksounded almost like an infomercial host at the Goya food warehouse in Doral, where he hosted his 15th regular-guy workday.
“When I was growing up, in the grocery store, the bean bags were always cloudy,” he said. “They’re not like that anymore.”
This is the Rick Scott you don’t always see: down to earth, engaging and fascinated with the smallest of details — from the appearance of beans to a genuine interest in what tamarinds are.
Often, though, he’s guarded, aloof and muddling details to such a degree that it blows up on him.
And that’s the Rick Scott giving fellow Republicans heartburn these days.
Earlier in the week, Scott traveled to Washington and penned an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times that, in the eyes of Florida budget experts, wildly inflated how much President Obama’s plan to grow Medicaid would cost the state budget.
“Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration put out their estimate of what the expansion will cost, just for Florida taxpayers, and it’s over $26 billion,” Scott said in DC.
Scott didn’t mention that AHCA is his agency.
Nor did he say that, weeks before, the agency was told by staffers with the Republican-led Legislature that the estimate couldn’t be used by the state. The number didn’t jibe with the Obama Administration’s policies or with federal law, which says the federal government will pick up a larger share of the cost of the expanded Medicaid health-insurance program.
Under fire, the agency Thursday lowered the price tag to Florida by as much as $21 billion — an 80 percent decrease.
Republicans were aghast; 2013 was supposed to be a re-branding year, a charm offensive when Scott shored up shaky poll numbers and put himself in position to handle the onslaught from an energized Democratic Party when he faces reelection next year.
But instead, Scott began the New Year by playing right into the Democrats’ narrative of him. They’ve spent years fashioning him as an untrustworthy figure who ran a hospital company that ultimately paid a record Medicare fraud fine for allegedly cooking the books.
And Scott went along by touting untrustworthy budget numbers about healthcare.
Less than 24 hours after his agency’s budget-number do-over, Scott shrugged off the controversy during his Friday workday at Goya and then Sedano’s Supermarket in Westchester.
“I think it’s positive that we’re having a discussion about how much the president’s healthcare bill is going to cost us,” Scott said.
Asked if he made an error in how he framed the issue, Scott said: “I always try to improve on everything I can do, but here’s what we know: Government is not free.”
He explained that he and his agency are concerned that government healthcare programs usually cost more than their original estimate. And, he said, the federal government could ultimately renege on paying for so much of the Medicaid program, sticking Florida with the bill.