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Gov. Rick Scott wants more health care flexibility from feds

WASHINGTON – Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act, sat down Tuesday with the man President-Elect Donald Trump has put in charge of undoing President Obama’s signature health care law.

The Republican governor’s meeting with GOP Rep. Tom Price, a Georgia orthopedic surgeon who has been nominated as secretary of Health and Human Services, lasted less than a half hour. And Scott said few specifics were discussed beyond a request for more state flexibility.

But Scott beamed about the prospect of finally having an ally on health care in Washington.

“This is a pretty exciting time for me,” the governor told reporters after the meeting. “One of the frustrations I’ve had for six years is I haven’t had a partner in the White House that is focused on improving health care for this country.”

Under Scott, former CEO of what was then the nation’s largest health care company Columbia/HCA, Florida has consistently – and defiantly – rebuffed federal efforts to expand elements of the Affordable Care Act into the state.

The state rejected millions in grant money to implement parts of the law, refused federal aid to expand Medicaid, and declined to set up an online marketplace designed to help Floridians navigate their health care coverage choices and tax subsidy assistance.

Democrats and health care activists have steadily blasted the governor, saying his steadfast opposition to the Affordable Care Act has needlessly denied coverage and care to low-income Floridians.

In October, Obama was in Miami trumpeting the health care law for what it had accomplished: providing coverage to 20 million more Americans than when it was signed into law, and reducing the nation's uninsured rate to a historically low level.

And he criticized Scott for not pushing Medicaid expansion harder.

“If your governor would just put politics aside and do what's right, then more than 700,000 Floridians would suddenly have access to coverage,” Obama told the crowd. “And, by the way, that would hold down costs for the rest of you, because there would be less uncompensated care in hospitals.”

The law has run into problems recently, including skyrocketing premiums and insurers leaving the marketplace.

With Trump coming into office, Scott said ineffective and burdensome government programs would finally give way to a free-market approach that would be far more consumer friendly.

“The problem (with the Affordable Care Act) is cost, cost, cost,” Scott said Tuesday. “So you’ve got to create competition. Competition usually controls cost, improves quality, (and) improves access. You’ve got to let people buy the insurance that they want to buy, not what some government wants to tell you.”

Amid reports that it might take years to fully replace the Affordable Care Act, Scott said he hopes Republicans in Washington move fast to undo the law.

“I want a repeal as quickly as can get it done,” He said. “Day one would be nice for me.”

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