U.S. Sen. Rick Scott distances himself from Trump’s ‘phenomenal’ health care plan

Donald Trump and Rick Scott. WESH photo

WASHINGTON — Florida Sen. Rick Scott (R) doesn’t appear eager to associate himself with President Trump’s latest health care policy overhaul.

Trump told ABC News this week that he’d be announcing a “phenomenal” new health care plan within the next two months, as he hoped to make health care policy a centerpiece of his 2020 re-election campaign.

But Scott — whom Trump previously named as one of his health care point people on Capitol Hill — distanced himself from Trump’s efforts.

Asked Wednesday how involved he is with Trump’s upcoming plan, Scott told the Florida Phoenix, “All my stuff has been focused really here with how to get costs down.”

Trump said in March that Scott, along with Republican Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, would be shepherding the GOP health care effort in Congress. “They are going to come up with something really spectacular,” Trump told reporters at the time.

Soon after that March announcement, Scott also sought distance, saying that the White House would come out with its own health care proposal.

As for his own contact with the White House, Scott told the Phoenix this week that he does meet with Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar. But Scott stressed his own work in the Senate, including bills he’s introduced on prescription drug pricing and hospital billing.

“What I’m focused on is the cost side,” he said.

Prior to Trump’s announcement on Sunday about a “phenomenal” plan, Republicans had seemingly agreed to punt on crafting a replacement for the Affordable Care Act until after the 2020 election.

With many Republicans viewing health care as a vulnerability in the high-stakes elections, Trump had said earlier this year that he wanted to put it off while Democrats controlled the House. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also said he made it clear to Trump that the Senate wouldn’t be taking up an ACA replacement ahead of 2020.

Trump’s renewed focus on the issue has concerned Senate Republicans. McConnell stressed again to Fox & Friends that Congress won’t act on any Trump proposal until after 2020.

Scott’s critics decried Trump’s announcement earlier this year that he was tapping the former Florida governor to lead on health care overhaul.

“Put simply, one could not find a worse figurehead for a push on improving healthcare than Rick Scott,” journalist Michael Hiltzik wrote in a column for the Los Angeles Times. “As Florida’s governor, he presided over an epic decline in the state’s insurance coverage rate. He refused to accept Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, depriving 1.4 million residents of coverage they would have received with the change.”

Scott also led Columbia/HCA, a health care company that later pleaded guilty to defrauding Medicare.

As Florida’s governor from 2011 to 2019, Scott championed congressional efforts to repeal and replace the ACA — known as Obamacare. But since joining the Senate, he’s suggested that he’s willing to work to change the existing legislation.

Asked in April whether Senate Republicans had shifted away from trying to repeal and replace Obamacare and would instead try to make narrower changes to the existing system, Scott told NPR, “Well that’s what I’m doing.”

Scott has also been a vocal critic of Democrats’ “Medicare for all” legislation. He warned in a March interview that the plan — which has the backing of progressives in the U.S. House and several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates — would “just ruin our health care system.”

Robin Bravender
Robin Bravender is the Washington, D.C. bureau chief for The Newsroom, a network of state-based news outlets that includes the Florida Phoenix.

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