Gov. Rick Scott’s announcement that he will sue the federal government for withholding Low Income Pool dollars caused a firestorm on Thursday, rounding out what has been topsy turvy week in health care in Tallahassee.
The announcement of the suit drew praise from conservatives such as Koch-brothers backed group Americans for Prosperity which issued a release saying, “The Obama Administration has proven once again to Florida taxpayers that Washington cannot be trusted to negotiate in good faith.
The move also was praised by House Speaker Steve Crisafulli who heads the chamber that has steadfastly opposed Medicaid expansion. Crisafulli acknowledged that the lawsuit, wouldn’t have an impact on current budget negotiations that have broken down and brought the session to a halt but said “I think it’s important that the point is made …. you can’t force the state to take on Medicaid expansions.”
Scott announced early Thursday he would sue the federal government for “coercing” the state into expanding Medicaid under the federal health care law in order to continue to receive supplemental Medicaid funding called Low Income Pool.
“It is appalling that President Obama would cut off federal healthcare dollars to Florida in an effort to force our state further into Obamacare,” Scott said in a press release announcing the lawsuit.
The decision to sue the federal government comes just two weeks after Scott switched his position on Medicaid expansion. In 2013 Scott said he supported expanding Medicaid and the governor reiterated that position while campaigning for governor last year.
Not everyone supported Scott’s actions, though. The Washington, DC-based group Doctors for America said the governor was “ducking responsibility instead of acting in the best interest of Floridians.”
Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner said in a prepared statement the governor’s “grandstanding underscores his commitment to wasting Florida’d tax dollars to get what he wants at whatever cost.”
The health care advocacy group Florida Chain said in a statement that the move “is not only incredibly disappointing, it is a distraction from what needs to be done during a time of crisis for our hospitals and for struggling families who cannot access care.”
The hospitals–which are most impacted by the pending elimination of Low Income Pool–laid low following the announcement. The Florida Hospital Association issued a statement saying that its “focus is on a responsible state budget hat includes coverage and a replacement for the low income pool. Both are essential to ensure low-income, working Floridians have access to preventative care and critical services. “