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Scott, Sebelius Joust Over Medicaid

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Gov. Rick Scott, a health-industry millionaire who became governor after promising to kill 'ObamaCare,' made national news Monday simply by going to Washington.

Politico, among others, took note that "the serial tormentor of the Obama administration" was in the nation's capital to meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

As Politico put it, "the fact that the meeting happened at all — and that Scott is keeping up the newly pragmatic tone he’s had since the election — raises the intriguing possibility that one of the nation’s most high-profile Republican governors might actually agree to implement some of the law."

But it remains only a possibility. Following the meeting, Scott and Sebelius would  only say the meeting was "productive."

Marilyn Tavenner, chief of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was also in the meeting, HHS' press office said.

It's not clear how much was accomplished. Scott said he pushed for HHS approval of Florida's waiver of federal rules so that the state can move virtually all Medicaid patients -- including the elderly and disabled -- into managed-care plans, such as HMOs. The state is already vetting vendors and is eager to get on with it, over the protests of some patient advocates.

For their part, Sebelius and Tavenner want Scott to take their money -- billions of dollars a year for states that agree to admit more uninsured low-income adults into Medicaid, a health program jointly funded by the state and federal governments. Scott has said it would cost the state too much, using controversial numbers (See E-mail Trail: Scott Knows His Estimates Are Wrong).

Federal officials said after the meeting they had reminded Scott that Florida has the third-highest number of uninsured among the states and thus has much to gain from taking the money, rather than see it go to other states.

Whether to expand Medicaid is likely to be the number-one issue before the Legislature when it meets in March.

For more details about Monday's events, see the account by Jim Saunders of News Service of Florida.

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.