Florida Medicaid Expansion Still Up In The Air As Rick Scott Punts

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 10:  Florida Governor Rick Scott speaks to the media after he toured the manufacturing facility at Beckma
MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 10: Florida Governor Rick Scott speaks to the media after he toured the manufacturing facility at Beckman Coulter, a biomedical laboratory instruments manufacturer, on January 10, 2013 in Miami, Florida. The governor continues his push to create new business opportunities in the state and earlier in the week announced a plan to call on the State Legislature to eliminate the sales tax on equipment purchased by companies for their production plants. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has passed on an opportunity to decide whether his state will expand Medicaid to more poor people under President Barack Obama's health care reform law.

Scott issued a budget Thursday that doesn't provide money for the Medicaid expansion -- but he didn't close the door on it either, the Orlando Sentinel reports. (h/t Health News Florida.)

So the Obama administration and poor Floridians will have to wait longer to find out whether an estimated 1.3 million of the state's residents will become eligible for health care coverage.

Scott explains, in the Orlando Sentinel article:

"Today is not the day for that decision," he told reporters. "We still have many questions unanswered and we continue to work with the federal government to get more information on how that expansion will impact the cost, the quality and the access of healthcare for all Floridians."

Florida's Republican politicians, led by Scott, have been consistently hostile to Obamacare. Scott himself is a vocal critic of the law who rose to political prominence by bankrolling an anti-Obamacare campaign before becoming governor, Florida was one of the 27 states that unsuccessfully sought to have the law struck down on Constitutional grounds, and the GOP-led legislature has hammered law over and over.

Scott met with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last month to discuss health care reform and the Medicaid expansion but left the sit-down repeating his oft-stated complaints about the cost of the law and the lack of flexibility for states to tailor it as they see fit.

Notably, Scott also used that opportunity to repeat since-discredited estimates of the Medicaid expansion's impact on Florida's budget.

So far, 10 other Republican governors have rejected the Medicaid expansion while the leaders of 19 states and the District of Columbia -- including four Republicans -- plan to move ahead with it. The Supreme Court ruling that upheld the health care reform law last year also gave states the option of not participating.

Florida previously rejected another core element of Obamacare, the health insurance exchange where small-businesses and people who don't get insurance at work will comparison shop for health plans starting Oct. 1 to buy coverage that begins next year. Scott, like 24 other governors, decided to the let the federal government run the exchange in Florida rather than have the state establish its own.

Scott's budget does include one Obamacare-related item: a fix that would enroll about 7,000 state workers into health coverage to bring Florida into compliance with the law's requirements for employers, the Orlando Sentinel reports.