The next governor of Florida could be determined by the success or failure of the Affordable Care Act. Or the perception of its success or failure as shaped by the campaigns of Rick Scott and Charlie Crist.
That's because Scott and Crist have doubled down on their condemnation or praise of the ACA. By doing so they have staked it out as the battleground where the twain shall meet — and the loser will be vanquished.
Rick Scott has considered the ACA an abomination from its inception. Somewhat curious for a guy who made himself a multimillionaire as a hospital-chain CEO; somebody you might think would support a national health-insurance program that provided at least basic coverage for everyone and some compensation for healthcare providers who previously had to pick up the bill for pro bono services.
But no. In 2009 Scott formed Conservatives for Patient Rights (CPR) and spent millions of his own money to stop Obamacare. That campaign morphed into his run for governor. Scott has made it clear he feels Obamacare is a socialist stake through the heart of the free-market healthcare system. The same system, you’ll recall, that the hospital chain he headed, Columbia/HCA, gamed for hundreds of millions of dollars by upcoding its Medicare services. HCA paid the largest civil penalty ever levied at the time, $1.7 billion. Scott, of course, had already moved on to other ventures and had settled in Naples. He “took responsibility” for the HCA overbilling, but none of the blame.
Charlie Crist, meanwhile, initially opposed Obamacare but now is one of the most vociferous supporters. “It’s great,” he told Candy Crowley on CNN not long ago, a sound bite that soon appeared in a Scott TV ad. It’s hard to know what Charlie really thinks of the ACA, but it’s an issue he must embrace because his new BFF is Barack Obama. Charlie has switched positions on so many key issues that he would look totally self-serving if he changed course now on the ACA. So he won’t. He can't.
Scott's strategy is straight out of the national GOP playbook: Blast the ACA early and often along with any Democrat standing by it.
It’s not a risky gambit, since polls say most Floridians oppose Obamacare. But the governor’s attack uses outdated, inaccurate data and he refuses to acknowledge it.
Scott’s latest TV spot shows a headline from the St. Augustine Record saying that 300,000 Floridians lost their insurance because of Obamacare. Problem is, the so-called headline is faked and doctored. Further, Florida Blue, the state’s biggest insurer, initially believed 300,0000 of its policies didn't meet the higher criteria of the ACA, but in the end the great majority were allowed to keep the policies they had.
Some 60,000 opted out for a policy under Obamacare. Virtually no one “lost” their health insurance, although some paid more.
When Gov. Scott was in Hialeah the other day, we questioned him about why he and the RPOF are using incorrect data in their anti-ACA and anti-Crist ads.
“The figures are accurate,” Scott said.
Similarly, he claims that 2.5 million Americans will lose their jobs because of the ACA. Certainly, some people, currently insured through their employers, will choose to stop working when they can buy health insurance through a marketplace, but the CBO says the 2.5 million figure is baloney.
Scott is serving more baloney on supposed cuts to Medicare Advantage. He says that Florida's 1.4 million Medicare Advantage enrollees will face cuts of “up to 10 percent.” That’s what some insurance companies say, but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says funding for Medicare Advantage will go up very slightly, not down.
On Obamacare, the Scott campaign seems to be living in its own reality, free of those inconvenient things called facts.
Deputy Campaign Manager Tim Saler recently told a blogger in Pensacola that “the campaign will bypass the media and communicate directly with voters.” Other politicians have tried the same tactic. Richard Nixon tried it and so did Bush 43.
Both felt the media had it in for them and wouldn't give them a fair shake no matter what they did or said. W particularly felt that reporters and the news institutions were elitist, self-promoting snobs who no longer mediated for everyday Americans. Scott evidently feels the same.
But he won’t get far bypassing the mainstream media and going directly to voters if he continues to use outdated, inaccurate or just plain wrong facts and figures. Politifact has already rated many of Scott campaign claims partly-to-totally false.
If he keeps this up he's well on his way to Pants on Fire.