Florida Governor Rick Scott made a surprise announcement on Wednesday that he has agreed to accept billions of federal dollars to expand Medicaid in the state.
The new coverage, which will be fully paid for by the federal government for the first three years, could bring health coverage to an additional 1 million Floridians, reports the Miami Herald.
"Quality health care services must be accessible and affordable for all — not just those in certain ZIP codes or tax brackets," Scott told reporters at a hastily called news conference at the Governor’s Mansion.
"No mother, or father, should despair over whether or not they can afford — or access — the health care their child needs. While the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care."
Scott agreed to the expansion only after Florida was granted a conditional waiver to allow a private party to manage Medicaid statewide. The expansion would also be phased out after three years and need to be re-approved by the legislature, reports Reuters.
“It is not a white flag of surrender to government-run health care,” he said.
The announcement is a significant policy shift for the Republican governor and former hospital executive who spent millions of his own money to try and defeat the Affordable Care Act.
He joins six other Republican governors who have agreed to accept federal dollars for the health care expansion.
According to POLITICO, it's the biggest sign yet that Republicans are grudgingly accepting that Obamacare is the law of the land.
Many of Florida's conservatives were not happy with the Governor's change of heart.
"I am flabbergasted. This is a guy who, before he was a candidate for governor, started an organization to fight 'Obamacare' in the expansion of medical entitlements. This is a guy who said it will never happen on his watch. Well, here it is," Slade O'Brien, Florida director of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, told the Associated Press.
The expansion will extend coverage to families whose incomes equal 138 percent of the federal poverty level — about$32,000 for a family of four.
For the first time, single individuals making up to $15,000 will also be covered, reports AP.