Will Obamacare lead to a change in the relationship between the feds and the states?

Last month, Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott announced his consent to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in the Sunshine State. As we observed at the time, however, Scott agreed only to support the expansion if the legislature votes in favor of it, a condition that might very well not be satisfied.

Since then, Republicans in both chambers of the Florida legislature have blocked the Medicaid expansion in committee. And Will Weatherford, Florida’s House Speaker, has declared that Medicaid expansion in his state is “dead.”

By rejecting the Medicaid expansion Florida will give up an estimated $51 billion over 10 years to cover low-income residents. Under Obamacare, the federal government would pay for 100 percent of the costs for the first three years of the program and then 90 percent thereafter.

For any state — much less a not-very-conservative one like Florida — to walk away from that kind of money is noteworthy. Indeed, Gov. Scott’s support for taking the money helps demonstrate the counter-intuitive nature of a state’s decision not to accept “free stuff” from the federal government.

That decision is founded, I think, on two sentiments. The first is a profound distrust of the federal government. Some governors and/or legislatures must fear that the feds will pull the rug out from under them at some point after they have signed on to the expansion.

Second, many states (including some that will accept the expansion) are simply tired of being coerced by the federal government. As Weatherford told CPAC:

States are being lured, and I would argue coerced, into expanding programs like Medicaid and passing regulations not through federal mandate but with the promise of free money. They’re trying to buy us off, one by one. But I am not buying it, Florida will not buy it and America should not buy it.

If the holdout states stick to their guns, and the politicians responsible for rejecting free stuff live to tell about it, the worm may very well begin to turn in the relationship between the federal government and the states.

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