by Ethan Rome - Executive Director of Health Care for America Now
Rick Scott made his fortune in health care by exploiting patients and the federal government as CEO of the world's largest health care company. As governor of Florida, he's now taking away cost-saving health care benefits and patient protections from millions. But this time he's an elected official who swore to uphold the law.
Since an extremist federal judge issued a partisan (and poorly reasoned) opinion finding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unconstitutional, Scott has been pretending the law doesn't apply to his state. Apparently Scott doesn't care that the judge is only one of four U.S. district judges who have ruled on the constitutionality of the law and that two of them have upheld it. It doesn't seem to matter to Scott that the ACA is the law of the land.
Whether it's a political stunt or the act of an extremist ideologue, Scott is hurting real Floridians in concrete ways, including millions of people with private health insurance or Medicare benefits. He's taking away a law that ends the worst insurance company abuses and frees families, seniors and businesses from crushing health care costs and devastating denials of care.
Scott's brazen disregard for the law is no surprise. He's the former CEO of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp and was forced to resign in 1997. That happens to be when the company pleaded guilty to a litany of criminal and civil charges, including lying to the government about how sick patients were so the company could collect bigger fees from the taxpayers. As a result, Columbia/HCA agreed to pay $1.7 billion in fines and penalties — the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history.
Scott's refusal now to put the new health care law into effect in Florida has serious consequences. He says it's about the people of Florida, but his action is really about giving control of our health care back to the insurance companies.
Scott should tell his constituents the truth about what he's doing — taking away dozens of cost savings and consumer protections from Florida consumers. He should tell people that he wants to return to the days when insurance companies could deny your care because you have a preexisting condition, drop you for getting sick and jack up your rates whenever they wanted.
Scott should tell cancer patients with devastating medical costs that he wants to reinstate annual and lifetime benefit limits that will force them into bankruptcy instead of providing the care they need. While he's at it the governor can let young adults know they have to quit their parents' health plans. He should go door to door and tell thousands of seniors to cough up the $250 donut-hole checks the ACA provided them to buy prescription drugs — and tell them he's ending the 50% discount they get on brand-name medicines. Scott should call the parents of sick children who finally got coverage because of the ACA and tell them he's canceling their insurance. He should also tell small businesses he's taking away their job-creating tax credits.
Since Scott is independently wealthy, why doesn't he take out ads in all of Florida's local newspapers telling families, seniors, college students and small businesses to start worrying about their health care again? He could also confess that as a rich man he has no idea what it means to be pushed around by health insurance companies or overwhelmed by spiraling costs.
Rick Scott's decision to buck the law is reckless, wrong and morally repugnant. Scott's not alone. Extremists in some states, such as Iowa, Utah and Wyoming, are following his lead, but thankfully a majority of states are appropriately moving forward with implementation–even states like Georgia, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin, which are part of the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law.
It's OK to challenge a federal law. It's not OK to unilaterally refuse to follow it. What Rick Scott is doing is unconscionable.