(CNSNews.com) - “It is appalling that President Obama would cut off federal healthcare dollars to Florida in an effort to force our state further into Obamacare," a furious Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) said Thursday as he announced that he plans to sue the Obama administration.
"It's outrageous," Scott told Fox News Thursday night."The federal government started a program in our state in 2006. It's called the Low Income Pool. It's (health care) for low income families," Scott explained. "Now, what they are saying is they are not going to keep that program going unless the state expands Obamacare (Medicaid). So this, first off, is horrible."
"It sounds like extortion," Fox News's Kimberly Guilfoyle told Scott.
"Absolutely," the governor agreed. "First off, you think about the families in our state that are relying on this. Second, (Supreme Court Chief) Justice Roberts said...that it's not lawful for the federal government, for the Obama administration, to use coercion tactics, basically held a gun to our head, if we don't expand Obamacare. They say they can't do that."
The Supreme Court in 2012 upheld Obamacare's individual mandate, but it also said the federal government could not compel the states to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income people. As of this writing, 28 states and the District of Columbia have ageed to expand Medicaid. The federal government has agreed to pay 100 percent of the expansion costs through 2016, but after that, the states must pick up a larger share of the costs, and that's what worries Scott and other governors.
In July 2012, shortly after the Supreme Court ruling, Gov. Scott announced that Florida would "opt out of spending approximately $1.9 billion more taxpayer dollars required to implement a massive entitlement expansion of the Medicaid program."
“Floridians are interested in jobs and economic growth, a quality education for their children, and keeping the cost of living low,” Governor Scott said at the time. “Neither of these major provisions in Obamacare will achieve those goals, and since Florida is legally allowed to opt out, that’s the right decision for our citizens."
He also noted that "Florida already has health care safety net programs for those with the greatest need."
Scott told Fox News on Thursday that he and his attorney general are working on a lawsuit right now.
He questioned whether President Obama really cares about the low-income families in Florida for whom the federal government created the LIP program in the first place.
"And doesn't everybody now understand that this is an administration that's going to use coercion tactics, and when it's appropriate, they'll cut back funding if you don't do another program they want?"
"One, they don't care about the low income families because they are willing to walk away from a program. And then, two, they are using bully -- this is a Sopranos. They are using bullying tactics to attack our state. It's wrong. It's outrageous just that they're doing this."
A White House spokesman, asked for his reaction to the anticipated Florida lawsuit, said he hadn't seen "specific details."
"But what is true is that expanding Medicaid in the State of Florida would ensure that 800,000 Floridians would get access to quality health-care coverage," Josh Earnest said on Thursday.
Earnest noted that under Obamacare, the federal government picks up the full cost of expanding Medicaid through 2016.
"So there's not a good reason why anybody in Florida would be in a situation of trying to block a policy that would benefit 800,000 Floridians. In fact, they would have a positive impact on the finances in the State of Florida.
"And it's difficult to explain why somebody would think that their political situation and their political interest is somehow more important than the livelihood and health of 800,000 people that they were elected to lead."
In a message on his website Thursday, Scott said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sent him a letter this week, saying that "the furture of LIP' and "Medicaid expansion are linked."
“We will fight to protect the healthcare of Floridians, and their right to be free from federal overreach," Scott said. "Our citizens already pay federal taxes that go into the federal LIP program. Now, President Obama has decided that the state must take on a larger Medicaid program, forcing our taxpayers to pay even more to government, before they get their own federal tax dollars back. This is outrageous, and specifically what the Supreme Court warned against."