Gov. Rick Scott finally had to admit that he faked the numbers for how much it would cost Florida to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
Until Wednesday, the governor had claimed that the cost would be $26 billion over 10 years. He has revised that to $3 billion. The $23 billion difference comes from basing the estimate on facts instead of politics.
The revised estimate was released two days after Gov. Scott shared the bogus numbers with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and reporters in the nation's capitol to justify his resistance to expanding Medicaid to as many as 1.2 million Floridians.
The governor's office spent Tuesday defending the estimate after many reporters questioned its veracity, based on a report by Health News Florida. It obtained emails to the governor's office from state budget analysts who said Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration erred in its calculations.
"There are three things the governor has stressed that remain unchanging in this important discussion about cost estimates," said a statement from Gov. Scott's press office. "First, growing government is never free. Second, the number of people in Medicaid would nearly double with the new law. And third, once government grows, it is almost never undone."
Those non-answers didn't stop the questions. So on Wednesday, the Scott administration released a new estimate that is in line with those by independent analysts.
The previous estimate was based on the assumption that the federal government would cover only 58 percent of the cost to expand Medicaid from 3.3 million participants to as many as 6 million. Fifty-eight percent is the current share that the federal government pays for Florida's Medicaid program. The state pays the rest.
The health care law, however, requires the federal government to cover 100 percent of the costs for the first three years -- assuming Medicaid expansion begins in 2014 -- 95 percent in 2017, 94 percent in 2018, 93 percent in 2019 and 90 percent in 2020 and beyond.
The governor, who has turned down millions of federal health reform dollars, has said he doesn't believe that the feds will come through with the money.
His $26 billion estimate also was based on an assumption that individuals currently eligible for Medicaid but unaware of their eligibility would start signing up. He also assumed that 100 percent of those newly eligible would enroll. No state or federal program has 100 percent participation from eligible individuals.
The revised $3 billion estimate from the Social Services Estimating Conference assumes that just under 80 percent of those newly eligible would enroll. That number could increase to $5 billion, depending on several factors.
The new estimate also takes into account the actual reimbursement rates required by the law. The report notes that it "reflects a substantial and unending commitment from the federal government."
That's true. But House Appropriations Chairman Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, noted correctly on Wednesday that while "it is important to recognize the potential state financial exposure should the federal laws change for the worse, we must follow our process, which requires estimates based on current law and practice. This is critical to the integrity of our budgeting process."
Indeed. The Florida Legislature will have important debates this spring about the health care law and what the state should do.
By giving phony Medicaid numbers, Gov. Scott demonstrated a lack of integrity and a lack of concern for Florida's nearly 4 million uninsured.