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Florida Gov. Rick Scott reverses stance on Medicaid. Win for White House? (+video)

An early 'Obamacare' foe, Republican Gov. Rick Scott announced his support for expanding Florida's Medicaid program. The move pits him against conservative governors with different plans.

By Staff Writer / February 21, 2013

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks in Fort Lauderdale last year. On Thursday, the Republican governor announced his plan to expand Florida's Medicaid program.

J. Pat Carter/AP/File

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Washington

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday said he will support expansion of his state’s Medicaid program to cover an additional one million low-income Floridians. It was a sudden and complete position reversal for GOP Governor Scott, who has been a fierce opponent of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which generously subsidizes Medicaid expansions as a major means of providing more Americans with health insurance nationwide.

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Washington Editor

Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott reversed his position, and will now accept federal funding for expanded Medicaid coverage.

Scott said that he had gained a new perspective on the issue following his mother’s death last year.

“Before I ever dreamed of standing here today as governor of this great state, I was a strong advocate for better ways to improve healthcare than the government-run approach taken in the President’s health-care law,” he said at a news conference. “I believe in a different approach. But, regardless of what I or anyone else believes, a Supreme Court decision and a presidential election made the president’s health-care mandates the law of the land.”

Wow. In terms of political health-care news, this is about as big as it gets. Is Scott’s decision a major victory for the White House?

Maybe. We qualify the statement only because Scott’s move does not make Florida Medicaid expansion a done deal. The legislature must still approve it, and that’s not certain. The speaker of the Florida House, Will Weatherford, insisted to National Review Online Thursday that his chamber’s support is far from assured.

Republican Weatherford, who opposes to the move, says a bipartisan select committee of state lawmakers is now looking into the matter. “It’s completely incumbent on the legislature,” he told NRO’s Betsy Woodruff.

Still, if Scott’s decision prevails it will be a major blow to the hopes of conservative Republicans who are aiming to curtail or derail “Obamacare” via state inaction. On Thursday they were describing Florida Medicaid expansion as the equivalent of a white flag of surrender, given that Scott had campaigned and won office as a committed Obamacare foe. Scott had vowed to not expand as recently as last July, when the Supreme Court ruled that states did not have to make such a move.

But at the moment the Florida governor’s approval ratings are abysmal, in the 30 percents, and he’s facing a tough reelection bid in 2014. That’s what swayed his decision, according to many on the right.

“I am terribly disappointed in his decision ... Governor Scott knows this is not the right thing to do,” conservative Erick Erickson wrote Wednesday at RedState.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, two other Republican governors who have vowed to resist Medicaid expansion, should not follow Scott’s lead and now cave, added Erickson.

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