Florida to Sue Feds Over New Attempt to Force Medicaid Expansion

Published May 15, 2015

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) will sue the federal government for trying to coerce his state to expand Medicaid.

“It is appalling that President [Barack] Obama would cut off federal health care dollars to Florida in an effort to force our state further into Obamacare,” Scott said in a statement.

The agency Scott is suing, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), is currently withholding funding from the state’s $2.2 billion Low Income Pool (LIP), a program which helps Florida hospitals treat low-income patients. If the funding is not renewed, Florida could be looking at a $1.3 billion budget gap.

This latest exchange between Scott and the federal government goes back before the 2012 Supreme Court ruling that determined the federal government could not withhold all Medicaid funding from states that refused to expand the program. The ruling dealt a critical blow to Obamacare, which always had mandatory Medicaid expansion as one of its primary goals.

The Obama administration is now pressing the same agenda by denying previously established funding for an unrelated program.

LIP expires in June, and federal health officials say they are open to negotiating a successor program, but no deal has yet been reached.

Feds Are Not Trustworthy

Christie Herrera, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability, says Scott is right to sue CMS.

“This is the central argument against Medicaid expansion, that the feds are untrustworthy and will go back on the funding promises they make to states,” Herrera said. “That is true with LIP, and it is true with Medicaid expansion.

“We’re also seeing similar federal intimidation in Texas, where CMS is threating to withhold uncompensated care payments to hospitals unless the state expands Medicaid,” Herrera said.

Federal officials claim they’re doing Texas a favor because Medicaid expansion would virtually wipe out uncompensated care, Herrera says. But that has not been the case in states such as Maine, where charity care actually increased nearly fourfold after Medicaid expansion.

Kabuki Theater

Dr. John Dale Dunn, an emergency physician and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, which publishes Health Care News, says expanding Medicaid was always an integral part of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“One of the reasons why … ACA is on the rocks is because [federal officials] have continually tried to coerce the states to become their agents through expansion of Medicaid,” said Dunn. “Even the Supreme Court says the feds can’t commandeer the states with bribes and penalties.”

Dunn says all the talk about ACA making health care cheaper and better is really a form of Kabuki theater. The intent of driving private insurance out of the health care system and replacing it with Medicaid on steroids is the real aim of the program.

“And remember this, Medicaid is the worst of all the government systems,” Dunn said. “It pays the worst and delivers mediocre results. Nobody likes Medicaid except bureaucrats.”

Sean Parnell ([email protected]) is a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute and president of Impact Policy Management, LLC.