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Scott Files Lawsuit Over Medicaid Expansion

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

Florida Gov. Rick Scott sued the Obama administration Tuesday, charging that federal officials are coercing the state to expand Medicaid in order to get $1 billion in federal hospital funds.

The Republican governor points to a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision saying the federal government can't coerce states to expand Medicaid, which is exactly what he says the Obama administration is doing by withholding hospital funds.

"President Obama's sudden end to the Low Income Pool (LIP) health care program to leverage us for Obamacare is illegal and a blatant overreach of executive power," Scott said in a statement.

But legal experts say that Supreme Court case doesn't necessarily apply. That's because the hospital funds Scott wants are part of an optional program, and the federal government has broad discretion over it.

The lawsuit was filed in a Pensacola federal court - the same place where Florida previously challenged the health care law. The Sunshine State filed the first lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act and was eventually joined by about two dozen other states.

Attorney General Pam Bondi's office hired outside attorney Paul Clement, who successfully argued that the Obama administration could not coerce states into Medicaid expansion. Clement was solicitor general under former President George W. Bush.

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has said Texas will support Florida in its litigation.

Only eight other states get the LIP hospital funding. Florida's is the first to expire on June 30th but other states are watching closely as the federal government has said the guidelines it uses to decide in the Florida case will be used in other states.

The Obama administration told states over a year ago that the LIP hospital funds were ending. That's because officials say it's more efficient to give people money to help buy health insurance than to pay hospitals for caring for the uninsured retroactively.

The federal government gave Florida an extension last year with clear guidelines to come up with alternative funding, but the state waited until the last minute.

The standoff between Scott and the federal government has spilled into the Florida Legislature. The Senate wants to expand Medicaid using a program that eventually take federal money and allows recipients to buy private health insurance and encourages personal responsibility by requiring recipients to work or go to school and pay a small monthly premium.

But Scott and the House remain staunchly opposed to taking any federal funds tied to the president's health overhaul law. The House abruptly adjourned Tuesday, three days early, over the stalemate.