TALLAHASSEE – Responding to a torrent of criticism from Democrats, Gov. Rick Scott on Monday repeated past statements that he supports maintaining protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions who purchase health insurance.
“My position has not changed — I do not agree with efforts to remove pre-existing conditions,” Scott said in a statement distributed by his U.S. Senate campaign and not the governor’s office. “I’ve continued to say that it is important to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions and that every American, including those with pre-existing conditions, should have the ability to buy any kind of insurance they want.”
The statement came the same day that U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — Scott’s opponent in this fall’s election — held a meeting in Orlando with people who have pre-existing conditions. During the meeting, Nelson discussed a lawsuit that 20 states, including Florida, have filed against the federal Affordable Care Act that could result in those protections being eliminated.
A pivotal moment in the lawsuit happened this month when President Donald Trump’s administration decided it would not defend the Affordable Care Act.
In the immediate aftermath, Scott avoided directly discussing the potential impact of the lawsuit, despite his history of being critical of the health care overhaul pushed by President Barack Obama. Democrats pounced on Scott’s statements. Florida joined the lawsuit at the direction of Attorney General Pam Bondi.
Scott’s statement on Monday still did not completely address the lawsuit, but he said that “Obamacare is a disaster and costs way too much, but keeping pre-existing provisions should be a part of any health care reform. I disagree with efforts to dismantle protections for those with pre-existing conditions.”
If the lawsuit by Florida and other states is successful, it would do away with key parts of the law that require insurance companies to sell health policies to people regardless of pre-existing conditions and prevents charging more because of the conditions. The provisions benefit people who aren’t covered by employer-based plans or Medicaid.
When asked about the lawsuit last week, Scott briefly outlined changes he thinks could lower health-insurance costs. The governor said the changes should be incremental but said he supports “allowing more competition (among insurers), we gotta let people buy the insurance that fits for their family and we’ve got to reward people for taking care of themselves.”
Prior to the federal law, there was no requirement in Florida that insurance companies offer policies to people, regardless of their pre-existing medical conditions. Scott has maintained that he supports the protections that policies must be sold to the sick.
But the federal law also makes clear that insurance companies cannot charge higher premiums based on pre-existing conditions or use of health care services. It established adjusted community rating, which barred insurers from raising premiums based on health status, medical claims or gender, among other things.
When pressed about the price protections, Scott campaign spokesperson Lauren Schenone said the governor “does not agree with efforts to remove pre-existing conditions. Period.”
But Marshall Kapp, professor emeritus and former director of Florida State University Center for Innovative Collaboration in Medicine and Law, said maintaining pricing protections for sick people while rewarding those who are healthy could be at odds.
“There does seem to be a tension between those two things,” Kapp told The News Service of Florida.