Reporter William March has covered state and national politics since 1994. Email
Reporter Mike Salinero has covered Hillsborough County government since 2007. Email
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Scott ally responds to Medicaid criticism
Posted Feb 22, 2013 by William March
Updated Feb 22, 2013 at 01:40 PM
Sarasota County Republican Party Chairman Joe Gruters, an early backer of Gov. Rick Scott, is pushing back against the conservative criticism of Scott’s decision to accept federally funded expansion of the state Medicaid program.
In an email to supporters today, Gruters portrays the decision as pragmatic and possibly beneficial to the state’s economy—essentially the same arguments backers of President Barack Obama’s health care reform plan have been making.
Scott’s decision sparked outrage from the conservative side of the party—everyone from Redstate blogger Erick Erickson to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has bashed Scott over it, with most of the anger coming from tea party style Republicans who got Scott elected in 2010.
The criticism from Putnam may be the scariest for Scott—Putnam is widely speculated on among those who suggest Scott could face a primary challenge in the 2014 election.
Gruters’ response: First he predictably blames “the media” for reporting on the conservative reaction, including suggestions that Scott is moving to the center in advance of a possibly tough 2014 general election fight.
But he also acknowledges, “Some conservatives are understandably upset with Scott for not standing against the expansion on principle, feeling like he has betrayed them.”
His response: After President Barack Obama’s re-election, the possibility of overturning Obamacare has become “a pipedream.” The expansion will provide health coverage to about 1.3 million Floridians “meaning billions of dollars will flow into the state’s already robust health care economy. That means jobs.” And it will lower hospital costs for treating the uninsured.
In return for accepting the expansion, Florida got a waiver allowing it to continue privatizing Medicaid — “an important conservative principle,” Gruters said.
He also acknowledges it’s nice to provide health care to people who need it and might not otherwise be able to get it.
Probably the toughest criticism of Scott’s move is that even though the feds will pay initially for the expansion, in three years the state may have to take over those additional costs, or drop back out of the expanded coverage, booting people off the rolls—a politically impossible task.
Gruters’ answer: “If we work hard enought to get Scott re-elected, he will be in Tallahassee to make that call.”