Scott administration defends faulty, politically-charged Obamacare estimates

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Governor Rick Scott’s administration is defending its estimates of the costs of carrying out the federal Affordable Care Act, after Health News Florida obtained copies of emails that raised questions about the validity of the numbers.

Scott’s Agency for Health Care Administration released a report last month that said Medicaid changes in the Affordable Care Act would cost the state $26 billion over 10 years. But Health News Florida obtained emails in which key state budget analysts questioned the assumptions used by AHCA, including assumptions about a matching rate that helps determine how much money the federal government would provide for expanded Medicaid eligibility.

Michelle Dahnke, an AHCA spokeswoman, said in an email Tuesday that the agency believes the numbers in the report “reflect the probable cost to Floridians” of the expansion. “Given the current federal fiscal climate and the track record of the federal government in exponentially expanding beyond their original estimates with regard to the health-care costs, it is important for the state to consider the potential ramifications of expanding Medicaid as it relates to federal and state fiscal liability,” Dahnke wrote. S

Scott has repeatedly used the $26 billion figure to raise concerns about the potential Medicaid expansion. But the left-leaning Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy also released a report Tuesday that said AHCA’s calculations “raise serious questions about the agency’s objectivity as well as the credibility of the estimates it produces.” The center said the new AHCA estimates are far higher than earlier projections, including an earlier estimate by the agency itself.

Meanwhile, PolitiFact has already weighted in on the issue, declaring Scott’s fuzzy math false:

There is no doubt that Medicaid represents a significant part of the state’s budget, and that any plan to expand the system — no matter how much the federal government pays for — could include additional costs to the state.

But rather than have a fact-based discussion about the state’s responsibilities when it comes to health care, it appears that Scott and his staff are making strange assumptions to make the estimates higher than they actually will be.

This is also a case where Scott cannot simply hide behind the fact that he is accurately citing a “study.” His office directed the analysis, and it was notified that the assumptions were questionable.

Already, the editorial boards are blasting Scott’s duplicitous efforts. The Sun-Sentinel blasted Scott’s faulty, politically-charged arithmetic

The governor is entitled to his opinion, but is he entitled to his own facts? Or is it possible that, as he did in rejecting $2 billion for a high-speed rail line and millions more to implement health insurance exchanges, he will again reject Florida’s share and send our money to other states?

Florida families are struggling. Some of us have friends and family members who are dying because they can’t afford health care. All of us are paying higher health insurance premiums or taxes so the poor can get treated at emergency rooms or safety net hospitals.

We deserve better.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.