– Gov. Rick Scott visited a senior center Tuesday to warn about cuts he said Obamacare is forcing in a popular version of the Medicare health program and to collect their horror stories.
What he found was a satisfied group with few complaints.
The 20 seniors assembled for a roundtable with Scott at the Volen Center were largely content with their Medicare coverage and didn’t have negative stories to recount.
And some praised Obamacare – a program that Scott frequently criticizes.
“I’m completely satisfied,” Harvey Eisen, 92, a West Boca resident, told Scott.
Eisen told the governor he wasn’t sure “if, as you say,” there are Obamacare-inspired cuts to Medicare. But even if there are, that would be OK. “I can’t expect that me as a senior citizen are going to get preferential treatment when other programs are also being cut.”
Ruthlyn Rubin, 66, of Boca Raton, told the governor that people who are too young for Medicare need the health coverage they get from Obamacare. If young people don’t have insurance, she said, everyone else ends up paying for their care when they get sick or injured and end up in the hospital.
Eventually, Rubin said, Obamacare will become more popular. “People were appalled at Social Security. They were appalled at Medicare when it came out. I think these major changes take some people aback. But I think we have to be careful not to just rely on the fact that we’re seniors and have an entitlement to certain things,” she said.
“We’re all just sitting here taking it for granted that because we have Medicare we don’t want to lose one part of it. That’s wrong to me. I think we have to spread it around. This is the United States of America. It’s not the United States of senior citizens,” Rubin said from her spot two seats away from the governor.
Tuesday was the second day in a row that Scott stayed away from the Florida capital, avoiding the give-and-take of the final week of the annual legislative session.
On Monday, he had photo ops in Jacksonville and Miami Lakes, where he presented medals to first responders. On Tuesday, he visited the Volen Center then stopped in Fort Lauderdale where he presented medals to veterans.
At the Volen Center he explained to a group around a large conference table that “Medicare is being reduced. The Medicare Advantage programs are being cut to pay for Obamacare.”
“As I travel the state and I listen to seniors they tell me stories about how their plans are being changed, how they are losing their doctors, the coverage is changing, and so what I’m here to do is just hear your stories,” he said.
Their stories didn’t jibe with the governor’s view. When Scott asked one woman if she’d seen any changes in her Medicare Advantage coverage. “Not really,” she responded. A man said he was “very happy” with his coverage. Another woman said she and her husband are “very pleased.” Another man reported “no problems.”
Sonia Azam, 73, of Coconut Creek, told Scott she found orthopedic surgeons weren’t taking Medicare anymore. Scott asked the group if others were finding physicians were opting out of Medicare, and the response was a chorus of “no”s.
The federal government pays more to cover each Medicare Advantage participant than for seniors under traditional Medicare. The government had planned a 1.9 percent cut in the next budget year, but the Washington Post reported this month that the decision was reversed, and payments will now increase an average of 0.4 percent.
Obamacare was generally popular. One woman said she liked it because her son, who was previously uninsurable because of heart problems, now has health coverage. “I don’t have any complaints,” she said.
A man who said he was in the insurance business said he’s found health coverage under Obamacare is too expensive. And a woman who said she lost her job and is living with her mother to take care of her said she can’t afford Obamacare.
When Scott was chief executive of Columbia/HCA, the company was found guilty of inflating Medicare bills and paid a $1.7 billion fine.
Florida House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, a Broward Democrat, commented about Scott’s Tuesday activities via email:
“It’s apparent that Rick Scott will say about anything, even untruths, to Florida’s seniors. He continues to overlook the fact that changes to Medicare Advantage were halted by President Obama and PolitiFact has rated Rick Scott’s claims on this issue to be `mostly false.’
“As far his campaigning on state time during the legislative session, I think the public is seeing more and more evidence of Governor’s Scott’s failure of leadership. Whether the issue is health care, education, equal pay for women, or raising the minimum wage, Florida isn’t seeing leadership from Governor Rick Scott and the Republican-run Legislature," Thurston said.