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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman February 25, 2014

Rick Scott opposed Medicaid expansion before he supported it

States across the country are still debating whether to expand Medicaid to serve the poor as part of the federal health care law.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is on record supporting an expansion, but he did not always hold that view. Scott’s critics continue to argue he isn’t pushing for the expansion hard enough.

It’s sure to be an issue in the governor’s race, so we wanted to look at the evolution of Scott’s position on the issue on our Flip-O-Meter, which evaluates whether a politician changed their stance -- we leave it up to voters to make judgments about any such changes.

(Scott is expected face former Gov. Charlie Crist, now a Democrat -- we have evaluated several  Crist stances on our Flip-O-Meter.)

Medicaid and the health care law

Medicaid is a joint state-federal, government-run health care program for the very poor. The federal government agreed to fund 100 percent of the cost for states to expand Medicaid for three budget years. The Medicaid expansion would allow states to offer health insurance to all of the poor. Before the law, you had to be poor as well as either disabled, elderly, pregnant or a child to qualify.

The law says the federal government will cover 95 percent of the costs in 2017, gradually declining to 90 percent of the costs in 2020 and beyond.

Even before he ran for governor Scott was a persistent critic of President Barack Obama"s federal health care push. In 2009, Scott spent $5 million of his own money to form Conservatives for Patients' Rights and oppose the law.

But on June 28, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Obamacare.  At the time, about 3.8 million people -- or about 21 percent -- of the state’s population was uninsured. The Supreme Court’s ruling said that states could skip the Medicaid expansion without facing financial penalties.

In response to the ruling, Scott said on Fox News that Florida would not expand Medicaid, adding that it "just doesn’t make any sense" and that it was too costly.

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Then a change of position

On Feb. 20, 2013, Scott summoned the media to the governor’s mansion where he announced that he still opposed setting up a state exchange but now supported a three-year Medicaid expansion. Scott said that a three year expansion would allow the state to then judge if it was working before deciding whether to re-authorize it.

"On the question of Medicaid expansion, there are no perfect options. To be clear, our options are either having Floridians pay to fund this program in other states while denying health care to our citizens, or using federal funding to help some of the poorest in our state with the Medicaid program as we explore other health care reforms...," he said. "While the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care."

At the time, Scott said that his mother’s recent death gave him a new perspective. "As I wrestled with this decision, I thought about my Mom’s struggles raising five kids with very little money," he said.

The tea party crowd pounced on Scott’s flip-flop. "This is just another example of Republicans lying to Floridians," said Everett Wilkinson, a tea party activist, calling Scott "the Benedict Arnold to the patriot and tea party movement in Florida."

Though Scott supported the Medicaid expansion, he also made it clear it wasn’t one of his legislative priorities. The Legislature ended up rejecting the expansion, which included $51 billion in federal dollars over 10 years.

In an interview with reporters in Washington on Feb. 24, Scott was asked about his opinion on Medicaid expansion and said he still supports it.  

Our ruling

Scott fought the health care law before he became governor, and after the law passed, he continued to fight it. After the Supreme Court upheld the law, Scott said definitively that he opposed the Medicaid expansion.

But several months later, in February 2013, Scott announced that he supported Medicaid expansion. He qualified that position by saying he wanted to try it for three years, so Florida could then judge how it was working. But he didn’t push the Legislature to approve it, and legislators ultimately rejected the expansion.

In 2013, Scott completely reversed his stance on Medicaid expansion. So we rate this a Full Flop.

Our Sources

Gov. Rick Scott prepared remarks, "We must protected the uninsured and Florida taxpayers with limited Medicaid expansion," Feb. 20, 2013

News Service of Florida, "Gov. Rick Scott media availability," Dec. 10, 2013

News Service of Florida,  "Gov. Rick Scott presser on Obamacare," Feb. 20, 2013

Fox News On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, Transcript, June 29, 2012

Tampa Bay Times, "Florida’s next move is up to Scott," June 29, 2012

Tampa Bay Times, "Scott will not carry out health care law," July 1, 2012

Tampa Bay Times, "Scott’s Medicaid ‘No’ comes with a price," July 22, 2012

Tampa Bay Times, "Scott’s mum on Medicaid support," Dec.12, 2013

Tampa Bay Times, "About face: Rick Scott endorses Medicaid expansion," Feb. 20, 2013

Tampa Bay Times, "Scott backs Medicaid expansion," Feb. 21, 2013

Tampa Bay Times, "Right dislikes Scott’s shift," Feb. 22, 2013

Tampa Bay Times, "Gov. Rick Scott on flood insurance, Medicare advantage," Feb. 24, 2014

PolitiFact, "U.S. Supreme Court upholds health care law," June 28, 2012

PolitiFact’s Scott-O-Meter, "Scott retools his rhetoric on health care law," Nov. 20, 2012

PolitiFact, "Charlie Crist has called himself pro-life and pro-choice and backed certain restrictions while opposing others," Feb. 7, 2014

PolitiFact, "Principles of PolitiFact, PunditFact and the Truth-O-Meter," Nov. 1, 2013

PolitiFact, "After he left the GOP, Charlie Crist said he no longer supported Florida’s gay adoption ban," Feb. 20, 2014

PolitiFact, "Charlie Crist mostly opposed oil drilling except in 2008 he called for studying it," Feb. 20, 2014

PolitiFact, "Charlie Crist says six Floridians die a day due to lack of Medicaid expansion," Feb. 12, 2014

Interview, Jackie Schutz, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott, Feb. 21, 2013

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Amy Sherman

Rick Scott opposed Medicaid expansion before he supported it

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