Health Care Mogul Criticizes Scott's Medicaid Stance

Apr 10, 2015

Mike Fernandez paid a visit to the university of South Florida St. Petersburg campus to promote his new book, "Humbled By The Journey."
Credit Daylina Miller/WUSF

Mike Fernandez's made billions building health care companies and he is not happy with the governor's stance on Medicaid expansion.

He said  Gov. Rick Scott is wrong to not want federal money that would expand health insurance to poor Floridians.

"How can you deny coverage to 800,000 people, especially when there's funding being provided for?” said Fernandez, who made his remarks before an event at the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg campus on Friday. 

“I think the state won't do anything this year, but I hope someone will take the leadership and push it through."

The Senate is pushing for a Medicaid expansion alternative. However, Scott last week backed the House's decision to not include Medicaid expansion in its $76 billion budget

The Senate expansion plan, called the Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange or FHIX, would provide health insurance to nearly a million poor or disabled Floridians who fall into the so-called coverage gap.

These people can't afford to buy health insurance, but their incomes are too low to qualify for financial help paying for plans available on HealthCare.gov.

Fernandez, whose net worth is $3 billion, made his money founding or having a majority share hold in about 25 health care companies, many of which deal in Medicaid plans.

According to a Florida Times-Union report, Fernandez and companies he controlled contributed more than $1.5 million to Scott's "Let's Get to Work Committee," and near the time that the state Agency for Health Care Administration was awarding Medicaid contracts, including some to companies in which Fernandez owned a sizeable share.

The Coral Gables resident also gave $1 million to Scott's reelection campaign last year and served for a period as finance co-chairman for the campaign. Outside of his billionaire status and Republican fundraising, he's known for philanthropy, giving millions to universities, high schools, a hospital and an art museum. 

He said Florida taxpayers are already paying the cost of uninsured people's trips to the emergency room and that accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid, and keep them out of the emergency room in the first place, could save taxpayers money. 

"I am fiscally conservative, but we're paying for care anyway,” Fernandez said. “Those people that have no coverage today are receiving their care at a much higher cost setting, which are (at) hospitals and emergency rooms. So I think to provide primary care and preventative care can actually reduce the cost to the state."

This isn't the first time Fernandez has criticized Scott. In emails leaked to the Miami Herald and Politico last year, Fernandez questioned the quality of Scott’s advertisements, his campaign’s Hispanic outreach strategy, the quality of the governor’s advisors and his own lack of access to Scott.

Fernandez was in St. Petersburg promoting his new book, Humbled by the Journey. The book details his 508-mile walk in Europe to raise money for Miami Children's Hospital and the Miami-Dade Early Childhood Initiative Foundation

Daylina Miller is a reporter with WUSF in Tampa. WUSF is a partner with Health News Florida, which receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.