Flip flop

Someone’s reading his poll numbers!

Republican Governor Rick Scott of Florida has been one of the fiercest critics of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. But yesterday, Scott reversed course on a big part of the new law, dropping his opposition to expanding health care for the poor in his state. Scott said he’ll expand medicaid for three years — that’s when federal startup funding expires.


While the announcement is sure to make political ripples, it is also a big win for Florida hospitals – who currently absorb most of the costs that uninsured patients incur.


Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human services granted Florida a waiver to allow the state to expand its pilot Medicaid privatization program. Florida will seek a third-party vendor to manage the program. Governor Scott has argued privatization will help control Medicaid costs, which make up about a quarter of the state’s budget.

Buyer’s regret

Florida voters aren’t thrilled about Gov. Rick Scott’s teabagging governing:

Even before he was elected in 2010, Scott spent $5 million of his own money—earned leading a health care company that derives much of its revenue from government payments—to fight Obamacare. Florida was the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case challenging Obamacare, and even after the court upheld the law, Scott refused to take steps to implement it. His fellow tea partiers are urging lawmakers to do the same: At a hearing in December, activist John Knapp told state legislators, “The American Constitution which you just swore an oath to uphold and defend has been contorted, hijacked, and reduced.”


To get Medicaid in Florida, you have to make less than $3,200 a year—and the state seems set to reject Obamacare subsidies that would fix that.


Obamacare is a particular target of tea party wrath in Florida, but it’s hardly the only one in a state where the movement’s ideology has permeated every layer of government. In just one year, Scott and his conservative allies slashed state spending by $4 billion even as they cut corporate taxes. They’ve rejected billions in federal funds in one of the states hardest hit by the recession. They’ve axed everything from health care and public transportation initiatives to mosquito control and water supply programs. “Florida is where the rhetoric becomes the reality. It’s kind of the tea party on steroids,” says state Rep. Mark Pafford, a Democrat. “We’ve lost all navigation in terms of finding that middle ground.”


Similar shifts have occurred in other states where the tea party has amassed political power, including Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. But no state has gone as far as Florida, where small-government advocates have seized the economic crisis and fiscal downturn to reshape the state, often sacrificing benefits for residents to make a broader political point.


Now, the Sunshine State may be a harbinger of another realignment: Support for Scott and the GOP is plummeting as Floridians see anti-government governance at work. But it may be too late for buyer’s remorse. After two years at the helm, the tea party’s legacy is likely to far outlast the movement.

(h/t/ William White.)

Tougher questions

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Of course!

Maddow went on to say that the president and vice president have both gone out of their way to make themselves available to questions from ordinary citizens, who have asked in town hall meetings about the Democratic Party’s stance on Internet freedom, about tax deductions for homeowners and how to prevent abuse of software patents.


Those substantive questions about real policy issues came from people at a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session with President Obama and from questions submitted to the president via Twitter, not from paid journalists who are charged with covering the White House.


“The professional press corps plays an important role,” said Maddow, “no matter how you feel about the Beltway media.”


But, she said, there is something important there, which you see in the gaps between the kinds of questions asked by Beltway media types and the kinds of questions ordinary people ask of people in power when they get the chance, which seem to come, in Maddow’s words, “from totally different universes.”


Politico led the pack of angry press corps dissenters in the wake of the golf trip to Florida, but media critic Greg Mitchell pointed out that when Politico‘s Mike Allen has had access to President George W. Bush during the 2008 election, he asked questions like, “All right. Mr. President, who does the better impression, Will Ferrell of you, or Dana Carvey of your father?” and “Now, Mr. President, you and the First Lady appeared on American Idol’s charity show, ‘Idol Gives Back.’ And I wonder who do you think is going to win? Syesha, David Cook, or David Archuleta?”

(Thanks to Medical Malpractice Attorney Terry Gaffney.)

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