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Florida Governor Scott Drops Opposition to Health Law

Florida Governor Rick Scott dropped his opposition to President Barack Obama’s health overhaul, saying he wants to negotiate on the issue that began his political career.

“I don’t think anyone involved in trying to improve health care should say, ‘no, no, no,’” Scott, a 59-year-old Republican, told the Associated Press. “Let’s have a conversation.”

Scott’s conversion came one week after Election Day, when Florida voters supported Obama’s re-election and struck down a constitutional amendment aimed at making it harder to implement the health law. Governors in just 13 states committed before the election to building their own insurance exchanges, which the law requires to provide coverage to the uninsured. If states fail to act, the federal government will create them.

Republican Governors Balk on Health Law After Romney Loss

Scott wants to find “solutions that are good for Florida families by reducing cost and improving quality and access in health care,” Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for the governor, said in a statement.

While states must say by Nov. 16 whether they plan to build their own marketplaces, they may wait until Dec. 14 to submit an actual blueprint.

Calling Time

Governors Bob McDonnell of Virgina and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana sent a letter today to Obama on behalf of the Republican Governors Association asking to extend the Nov. 16 deadline. The association is meeting in Las Vegas.

The governors have “concerns about future cost shifting to states,” wrote McDonnell, the RGA chairman, and Jindal, the vice chairman. The two wrote that “imprudent implementation” of the law would increase the national debt.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, a Republican and a physician, said in a statement yesterday that his state won’t create an exchange.

Hospital chains such as HCA Holdings Inc. (HCA) and insurers including UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH), the biggest private provider of health benefits, have already spent millions on technology, marketing and planning to prepare.

Obama’s re-election caused rallies of hospital-chain shares, including HCA, where Scott was once chief executive officer, on prospects for millions of newly insured patients. UnitedHealth, WellPoint Inc. (WLP) and other insurers declined as the industry faced profit limits and new taxes to help pay for the coverage expansion.

Oppose Changes

At Scott’s direction, Florida was the second-most-populous state to oppose changes under the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, including an option to expand Medicaid eligibility. Nearly 20 percent of Florida’s 19 million residents didn’t have health insurance in 2011, a rate surpassed only by Texas, Nevada and Louisiana, U.S. Census Bureau data show.

Scott founded and financed the nonprofit Conservatives for Patients Rights in 2009 to oppose Obama’s health-insurance changes. In April 2010, one month after Obama signed the changes into law, Scott announced his candidacy for governor, the first office he sought, and spent $73 million of his own on the race.

As governor, Scott has opposed much of Obama’s policy, using terms including “Obamacare,” “Obamacrats,” “Obama math” and “Obama rail” to describe the president’s agenda.

Last year, Scott told the Palm Beach Post editorial board that the changes weren’t law.

“It’s not the law of the land,” Scott told the newspaper in November 2011. “I don’t believe it will ever be the law of the land.”

After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld most of the law on June 28, Scott said Florida wouldn’t implement it because it would be “devastating” for patients and for the economy.

“We’re not going to implement Obamacare in Florida,” Scott told Fox News after the ruling. “We’re not going to expand Medicaid because we’re going to do the right thing.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael C. Bender in Tallahassee at mbender10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net

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