The Agony of Rick Scott

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 20 2013 7:45 PM

The Agony of Rick Scott

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Florida Governor Rick Scott pulls Goya products on a cart as he helps stock the shelves at the Sedano’s Supermarket on January 11, 2013 in Miami, Florida. Governor Scott spent his 15th 'Let’s Get to Work Day' highlighting the importance of building up manufacturing jobs.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Has anybody ever sounded as agonized about anything as Florida Gov. Rick Scott sounds about accepting Medicaid expansion money from the Feds? Scott negotiated with HHS for a waiver that would allow Medicaid to be run by private companies. (He made his fortune in the hospital industry, and that industry lobbies him with confidence.) He got the waiver.

So he announced that Florida would take the money, but golly, he wasn't happy. "It is not a white flag of surrender to government-run health care," he said. "I believe in a different approach but it doesn't matter what I believe. It doesn't matter what anyone believes." The message was that he was reasonable. The immediate statements from Tea Party groups (boo!) and Democrats (tentative hooray!) confirmed this. And Phil Klein describes how/why Scott betrayed Obamacare holdouts:

Scott is up for reelection in 2014, and no matter who is in office, it’s doubtful that after three years of allowing broader Medicaid eligibility, that the state would suddenly kick people off the program or prevent new Floridians from enrolling under eligibility standards that have prevailed for three years. Even Scott seems to acknowledge this by saying, “I want to be clear that we will not simply deny new Medicaid recipients health insurance three years from now.”  Realistically, this was Scott’s one and only chance to resist the Medicaid expansion, and he folded.
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Right, but look at how he folded! He knows full well that the Republican-run legislature has to sign off on the plan. Either legislators affirm it, and help out Scott in 2014, or they buck him, and make Scott seem—for the first time in recorded history—like a centrist. When Charlie Crist has joined the Democratic Party and beats you like a rug in early polls, that's a decent menu of choices!

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.