TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday immersed himself again into the political fray over health care as he went to Washington, D.C., to ask top Republicans to make key changes to a proposed Senate bill to overhaul the Affordable Care Act.
Scott's move, which included a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence as well as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, came at the same time that Senate leaders postponed a vote amid defections from GOP senators.
The Republican governor and former health care executive wants a guarantee from Congress that Florida will not receive less money per person for Medicaid than other states that expanded the program under the law pushed by President Barack Obama.
Due to strong opposition from Republicans in the state House, Florida rejected a proposal to expand Medicaid to an additional 800,000 people. Scott at one time came out in favor of the expansion, but then changed his stance after he was re-elected.
Medicaid currently covers roughly 3.6 million Floridians and the $26 billion program is paid by the state and federal government. Scott wants Florida officials to have a greater say over how the program is structured. He also wants the final bill to include protections that anyone can purchase insurance even if they have a pre-existing condition.
"My job is to fight for Florida," Scott during an interview with The Associated Press. "We shouldn't get paid less in Medicaid than any other state."
The governor, who is expected to challenge U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson next year, refused to say, however, if he would oppose the Senate bill if his changes were not eventually included in the legislation.
"I'll have to see what the bill looks like," Scott said.
The vote on the Senate measure was delayed after at least five GOP senators - conservatives and moderates - said they would vote against even beginning debate. The decision to postpone came after the Congressional Budget Office said Monday the measure would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026 than Obama's 2010 statute.
The current Senate bill would let states ease Obama's requirements that insurers cover certain specified services like substance abuse treatments. It also would eliminate $700 billion worth of taxes over a decade, largely on wealthier people and medical companies - money that Obama's law used to expand coverage.
Nelson, who has come out strongly against the Senate proposal, criticized Scott's visit to the nation's capital.
"Rick Scott is supporting and urging Republican senators to vote for a bill that makes huge cuts to Medicaid, takes coverage away from 22 million people and allows insurance companies to hike rates for older Americans," Nelson said in a statement. "If he really cared about the people of Florida, he'd be doing the exact opposite of what he's doing now."
Scott's push on Medicaid includes giving Florida greater control over the benefits paid under Medicaid and how much the state should reimburse for medical care. He has argued that state officials know better what type of coverage should be offered.
Florida already has of the nation's stingiest Medicaid programs, offering relatively low reimbursements to providers and limiting eligibility based on income to poorer children and their parents, pregnant women, people with disabilities and seniors in nursing homes.
Despite this, half of Florida's children and three in five nursing home residents depend on Medicaid and its Children's Health Insurance Program, according to a June 2017 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation.