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Scott Should Just Tell Citizens the Truth | Rhonda Swan

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Scott Should Just Tell Citizens the Truth | Rhonda Swan

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Scott Should Just Tell Citizens the Truth
Friday, January 11, 2013 — Rhonda Swan

Gov. Rick Scott cannot be trusted.

In 2010, Floridians overlooked the fact that as the founder and former CEO of the nation’s largest hospital chain, Columbia/HCA, Scott resigned in the midst of a federal investigation that resulted in Columbia paying $1.7 billion in fines for defrauding Medicare and Medicaid.

Voters gave Scott the chance to show them that he could be “someone who learns, leads, and demands accountability” as he promised during the Republican primary campaign.
Instead, he’s shown that he’s someone who doesn’t learn from his mistakes, misleads, and thinks he’s accountable to no one.

The governor’s latest deception was intentionally inflating the cost estimate of expanding the state’s Medicaid program for up to 1.2 million uninsured Floridians under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

He claimed that Florida taxpayers would pay $26 billion over 10 years. Thanks to reporting by Health News Florida’s Carol Gentry, who obtained emails from state budget analysts, those figures were revealed to be grossly exaggerated.

They were based on the governor’s expectation that the federal government would renege on its promise to pay the bulk of the Medicaid expansion instead of the actual reimbursement rates.

Exposed by media reports, the governor had no choice but to come clean.

On Wednesday, his administration released a report with revised estimates that show expanding Medicaid will cost the state between $3 billion and $5 billion.

That’s still a pretty hefty price for a state not flush with cash. Last summer, Scott and lawmakers told state agencies to submit budget proposals that reflect a 5 percent decrease for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

If Scott doesn’t want to expand Medicaid, he doesn’t have to dupe Floridians. The facts speak loud enough.

If, however, he wants to pretend he cares enough to at least try to get health coverage for some of Florida’s nearly 4 million uninsured, it probably looks better to say the state couldn’t afford $26 billion than $3 billion to $5 billion.

Especially when non-partisan organizations such as the Kaiser Family Foundation estimate the state would spend no more than $1 billion to expand Medicaid and might even save money.

Scott has made no secret about his disdain for Obamacare. He has until now refused to implement the law, turning down millions in federal grants and justifying his inaction by claiming it wasn’t the “law of the land.”

But after Mitt Romney, who promised to repeal the law, lost the presidential election, the governor was stuck with it. “The election is over and President Obama won,” he said. “If I can get to yes, I want to get to yes.”

Why, then, is he trying so hard to get to no?

For a man who trumpets his upbringing in public housing and his family’s struggle to pay the health care costs of his younger brother’s hip disease, Scott doesn’t act like someone who can relate to the health care needs of the poor.

In fact, he’s downright tone deaf. He can’t even feign concern.

“I’m responsible for Florida families” is the best he can do when addressing the issue.

He certainly can fake math, though. Scott’s funny arithmetic on Medicaid should come as no surprise given his history of distortions.

He ran on a promise to create 700,000 jobs in seven years “on top of what normal growth would be.” Normal growth is projected to be 1 million jobs. Not a full year into his term, he denied ever making that statement even though he was captured saying it twice on video.

"No, that's not true," he said. "I don't know who said that. I have no idea.”

Expect him to take credit for 700,000 of those 1 million jobs that would have been created no matter who occupied the governor’s mansion.

When he ran for governor, Scott promised to keep his hands off education funding.  In his first year, he signed a budget that cut education by $1.3 billion.

When he rejected $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando, Scott said Floridians would be on the hook for $1 billion. The real figure was $280 million.

Since Scott can’t impress Floridians with brilliance, he tries to befuddle them with bullpucky.

Just telling the truth would be so much easier. And it’s what we deserve.

Rhonda Swan is an editorial writer for The Palm Beach Post and author of Dancing to the Rhythm of My Soul: A Sister’s Guide for Transforming Madness into Gladness. She can be reached at [email protected]

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