Bad policy, bad politics: Governor Scott’s Medicaid Expansion Folly

Last Wednesday Florida’s Governor Rick Scott said that he’d ask the state legislature to approve a Medicaid expansion that is fully funded by the Federal Government during the first three years. This is part of the Obamacare plan that aims to provide some sort of health coverage to every American (without regard to monetary costs and costs to society and the overall quality of healthcare).

Conservatives seem split on Governor Scott’s decision. Some see it as a betrayal such as Stephen Hayes while others see it as a practical calculation such as Charles Krauthammer. Arguments for the latter include:

1. Obamacare is the law of the land and we lost our last chance to get rid of it when he was re-elected last november.

2. Federal taxes collected from Floridians would otherwise go to other states.

3. The state can sunset the Medicaid expansion once the Federal funding goes below 100%

4. Other Republican governors, known for their conservatism, have reached the same conclusion and are accepting the expansion.

Well, my friends, I’m here to tell you that these arguments are hogwash. Yes, President Obama won a close election but the State of Florida is run by a Republican Governor and Legislature. If Republican Governors stood together in principled opposition they would send a message to the citizens of their states that they do in fact stand up for what they allegedly believe in.

The problem with accepting Federal funding for ANY program is that you further diminish the role of the State Government. What the leftists want is a top-down one-size fits all Federal government and these incremental steps toward it are snowballing. Ironically Governor Scott is diminishing the role of his own office.

Once Federal money is inserted into any state program a dependence on that money is created. Look at education. Before the creation of the Federal Department of Education schools in America were completely funded with state and local funds. Consider that in year 2011-2012 year Miami-Dade Schools received $19 million directly from the Federal government and that the State received $563 million from the Federal government in 2010 from one program alone and up to $700 million from another. Does anyone believe that once a state is suckling on the teat of Federal money that it can easily relinquish it?

Besides, the money that will be coming to Florida under this expansion won’t be tax dollars collected from Floridians but rather borrowed money that Floridians (and all Americans) will be on the hook for since the Federal government is borrowing 40% of every dollar that it currently spends.

The fact that other Republican governors have thrown up their hands and decided to accept the money should be of no consolation to our Governor. Their unprincipled positions should not ameliorate his. The easy and shortsighted thing to do is take the money. The hard and forward-thinking approach is to resist it with all the strength you have.

Of course this is all politics. According to Cal Thomas, the Governor’s approval ratings were at a very low 36% in December. He has been conservative and unpopular. This decision will relieve him of at least one of those labels, now he’ll just be unpopular. Consider that among those 36% lie the base of Florida’s conservatives, those whose support a Republican governor must have when running for re-election in a non-Presidential year. I expect that approval rating to plummet and would not be surprised if Scott faces a primary challenger and loses. Even if he survives a primary challenge he’ll be extremely weakened. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist.

There’s no way to spin it, this decision is bad policy and bad politics.



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