Monday, July 2, 2012

Governor Voldemort and the Order of the Sebelius

Florida Governor Rick Scott One of my Facebook friends asked me today what I thought about Florida Governor Rick Scott’s decision to opt out of certain provisions of ObamaTax (formerly Obamacare). Of course other governors have made similar decisions – notably Bobby Jindal of Louisiana – but Gov. Scott did get a great deal of publicity. Perhaps his resemblance to Voldemort makes him a more effective bogeyman for the MSM than the Jimmy Stewartish Jindal. In any case, my friend was curious whether I “would applaud this as appropriate civil disobedience or a somewhat futile attention grab.”

I did a little research and here’s what I found out:

There are two provisions from which Florida will opt out.

The first is of little consequence: setting up a state health insurance exchange. The federal government will set up exchanges for states that decline to do so.

The second is where the controversy lies: Florida will opt out of an expansion of the state Medicaid program. Most of the criticism of Gov. Scott has centered on this because it also means passing up new Federal funding that goes with it. The governor’s news release explains that “even though the federal government has promised to initially pay 100% of the increase in Medicaid payments for the first three years of ObamaCare, the burden increasingly shifts to Florida taxpayers in future years.” The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that in the out years, the state’s share is 10%. That seems small, but 10% of a big number is still a big number; it will cost Florida taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Although ObamaTax authorized HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to levy heavy penalties on states that declined to participate in the Medicaid expansion, that part of the bill was thrown out by last week’s Supreme Court decision. Chief Justice Roberts wrote that it represented too “dramatic” a change to fall within the federal government’s authority to unilaterally amend the program. Participating in the Medicaid expansion is, therefore, entirely voluntary on the part of the states. In deference to this sensible bit of federalism, I’ve refrained from using the #JohnRobertsIsSoDumb hashtag on Twitter all day.

Anyway, it seems to me then that Gov. Scott’s decision is neither civil disobedience – since the law allows him to do this – nor grandstanding. The chief executive of the Sunshine State is simply trying to keep the budget under control.

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