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Thursday, December 8, 2016

When Florida’s Republican governor Rick Scott accepted Medicaid expansion, many observed that it was mostly because he’s extremely unpopular and facing election next year, and he was more afraid of losing the general election to former governor Charlie Crist than a primary to a Tea Partier.

That’s certainly part of the story.

Like Republican governor Rick Snyder of Michigan, who also is calling on his state legislature to accept the expansion, Scott has spent much of his term appeasing the far-right Republicans who put him in office in what some call a Tea Party binge. So in an effort to seem somewhat centrist in states President Obama won, both agreed to allow his signature accomplishment to extend health insurance to any legal resident earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level.

But in all the celebration of Scott agreeing to cover about a million uninsured Floridians, the three-year waiver he negotiated with the federal government didn’t get its much-deserved attention. And Scott seems to have planned it that way.

“A few months ago, my mother passed away, and I lost one of the only constants in my life,” he said. “Losing someone so close to you puts everything in new perspective . . . especially the big decisions.”

He also suggested that he was considering the “poorest and weakest,” which is not exactly a point he was making when he was lying about the cost of Medicaid expansion.

With talk like that, Scott was instantly called “Benedict Arnold” by some Tea Partiers. But they likely missed the real story by underestimating Scott’s willingness to bilk the federal government.

“Scott’s hospital company, Columbia/HCA, pleaded guilty to criminal charges and paid a total of $1.7 billion in fines related to Medicare fraud,” according to PolitiFact. “Even though Scott had resigned by the time the case settled, prosecutors said the widespread fraud occurred while he was at the helm.”

This history would make many reluctant to let Scott anywhere near taxpayer money. However, industry lobbyists are lusting over the sweet deal Scott made before deciding to accept the expansion: Florida will be allowed to privatize its Medicaid program that currently covers about three million residents.

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