Like the Republicans he might try to join in the U.S. Senate, Florida Gov. Rick Scott trashed Obamacare but didn’t sound especially excited about a GOP-drafted health care bill as he made the rounds on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
Scott said the Senate Republican legislation was “absolutely” better than former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, but he stopped short of saying he’d vote for it or recommending that Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio do so.
“This bill is continuing to change, evolve. … There’s a constant conversation that is changing so you can’t say where it is right now,” Scott told reporters during a midday gathering in the Russell Senate Office Building.
An hour or so later, a lack of Republican support for the measure forced GOP leaders to abandon plans of voting on it this week.
Scott had meetings Tuesday with Vice President Mike Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Rubio to discuss the health care bill and his concern that Florida get its “fair share” of Medicaid reimbursements from the federal government.
Benefits for a full-time Medicaid enrollee in Florida cost state and federal taxpayers an average of $4,788 in 2014, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, compared to $8,618 in New York and $10,721 in North Dakota.
“With regards to Medicaid, what the bill should say is that every state will be paid the same amount per capita for all their Medicaid recipients,” Scott said. “Every state should get the same amount. Our tax rates are not lower at the federal level in our state than any other state. Why would we get paid any differently for our Medicaid recipients?”
While Scott huddled with Republicans and scheduled morning and evening appearances on Fox News, he said he didn’t see any point in talking to his state’s senior senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, who has criticized Republican overhaul efforts.
Scott is expected to challenge Nelson in 2018, with President Donald Trump among those publicly urging Scott to run.
“He’s not engaged in the health care debate,” Scott said of Nelson in an interview with The Palm Beach Post. “What have you seen him come out and do other than oppose doing anything about this?”
Scott added: “I’m going to focus on the people that are actually doing something with regard to the health care debate. The Republicans have a bill and I’m going to focus on the people that are actually trying to get something done. I appreciate that Donald Trump is focused on repealing and replacing Obamacare. I know Mike Pence is. I know the Senate Republicans are trying to get something done. I’m going to focus my time on trying to get something done.”
Nelson responded by accusing Scott of working against the best interests of Floridians.
“Rick Scott is supporting and urging Republican senators to vote for a bill that makes huge cuts to Medicaid, takes coverage away from 22 million of people and allows insurance companies to hike rates for older Americans. If he really cared about the people of Florida, he’d be doing the exact opposite of what he’s doing now,” Nelson said.
Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, also blasted Scott’s visit.
“Governor Scott should fight for Floridians, not against them. His support of a bill that would kick more than 22 million Americans, including 2 million Floridians, off their health insurance is mean and deadly,” Frankel said.
Rubio and Scott met with McConnell in the ornate Majority Leader’s office in the U.S. Capitol shortly after McConnell announced the delay in considering the bill.
“I’m not prepared to vote on it because we don’t understand its full impact yet,” Rubio said.
Rubio says he will base his vote on the bill’s impact on Floridians. He asked Florida Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, to send staffers to work out of his office this week to assess the legislation’s effect in Florida.
Scott, who plans to return to Florida on Wednesday morning, said his Tuesday visit left him optimistic about the Senate bill.
“People up here are working hard. They know this is a work in progress,” Scott said.
“We’ve got to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Scott said. “I think it’s important that we get something done here. You just can’t give up.”