PolitiFact Florida: Rick Scott’s new talk on health care tests 2010 campaign promise

Gov. Rick Scott is not-so-subtly shifting his tone on the federal healthcare law now that President Barack Obama has been reelected and the law is almost certain to stand.

To be sure, Scott still opposes a requirement that most people purchase health insurance. But he has toned down his fight-the-law-at-all-costs rhetoric since election day.

“Gov. Romney did not win the election,” Scott said last week. “So it is not an option to repeal Obamacare. My goal now is to focus on what’s good for our citizens.”

It’s a pragmatic response, in many ways. But it contradicts one of his core promises to the voters who elected him in 2010.

Politifact Florida is tracking 57 of Scott’s campaign promises on the Scott-O-Meter, including a pledge to fight to repeal the law known as Obamacare. We originally rated this promise as Promise Kept based on Florida’s efforts to overturn the law in court and Scott’s support of a state constitutional amendment that would attempt to block the individual mandate in Florida.

But voters rejected the amendment this month, the lawsuit failed and Scott is changing his tune.

Previously, he said Florida should not go forward with the optional components of law: expanding Medicaid to cover more uninsured poor people and creating a state health insurance exchange.

Now he wants to talk.

In a letter sent last Friday, Scott requested a meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to talk about the possibility of creating a healthcare exchange.

“The citizens of our state are hopeful that you will accept our offer to partner with you to work together on solutions that will address the ever-increasing cost of healthcare and the need for better access by all Florida families to quality healthcare,” Scott wrote.

“While I continue to be concerned with the unanswered questions regarding the implementation of [the health care law], I know that we share the same goals when it comes to lowering the costs of healthcare and addressing the need for better access to quality healthcare for not only Floridians, but for all Americans.”

The letter does not tip Scott’s hand, but his reaction is at odds with about a dozen other Republican governors, who continue to vociferously fight the law. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, for instance, told the federal government he would not set up a state-run health insurance exchange because he did not want to put “hard-working Texans on the financial hook for an unknown amount of money to operate a system under rules that have not even been written.”

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said the exchange would be state-run in name only. The federal government is simply passing “along to the state the burdens of a new and cumbersome bureaucracy,” she said.

Scott is being pressured by conservatives to stand alongside other Republicans.

“Florida should not agree to be the de-facto administrator of the federal government’s rules, regulations and mandates,” said Slade O’Brien, the Florida director of the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity.

The state has wasted two years and millions of federal dollars that it could have devoted for an exchange, said Laura Goodhue, executive director of Florida CHAIN, a health advocacy nonprofit group. She said she hopes Scott will include consumer advocates in discussions about the exchange and that he reconsider his decision not to expand Medicaid.

“He’s a businessman,” she said. “I’d like to think that he’s just being reasonable.”

Scott remains no fan of the healthcare law, but he has eased up on his fight to oppose or repeal the landmark 2010 legislation.

The Scott-O-Meter isn’t judging whether Scott’s change in position is good or bad. But it is at odds with a promise he made on the campaign trail.

We now rate Scott’s promise to fight to repeal the healthcare law a Compromise.

Politifact is a partnership between The Tampa Bay Times and The Miami Herald to check out truth in politics.