Obamacare Shaping the Rick Scott/Charlie Crist Narrative in Florida

The latest numbers say that about 980,000 Floridians have signed up for private insurance through Obamacare. That's up from 440,000 in February and March.

And, as the AP correctly predicted weeks ago, the state is well on its way to blowing out its original projections.

For his part, Charlie Crist is embracing the numbers, calling them "great" and making sure everyone knows the man he's trying to unseat from the governor's office -- Rick Scott -- has been doing all he can to block Obamacare from Florida.

Scott himself has been looking for folks who might be frustrated with Obamacare -- namely, seniors -- to talk things out. But this strategy seems to have blown up in his face as well.

See also: Broward College to Host First Debate Between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist

The consensus has always been that Florida would be one of the major states lagging in Obamacare sign-ups.

Scott, the Republican-led Legislature, and other GOP leaders have done just about anything to block the federal workers called navigators hired to help people enroll for the Affordable Care Act.

In September, Scott wrote a letter to Congress to try to have navigators banned from entering county health departments and refused to give federal aid to move things along.

But even in the face of rising sign-up numbers, and Florida being an unlikely Obamacare success story, Scott has been dogged in trying to get his message out that it's bad.

Just this past week, Scott visited a Boca Raton senior center for a roundtable discussion to hear about how Obamacare is a terrible thing. Instead, got praise for Obamacare and tales about how content these seniors are with the overall experience so far.

From the Sun Sentinel:

"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.

When the governor asked the seniors if they had found any doctors opting out of Medicare, most said no.

Meanwhile, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has also done her part to try to derail Obamacare navigators in the state, claiming they're not properly trained to handle medical information.

"Navigators are not allowed to recommend insurance companies to clients," one navigator told New Times in March. "All we do is sit down with them for an hour, help them sign the application, and guide them through the process.

"People come into it thinking that they won't be able to see their doctor," she said. "They hear horror stories about the health-care system in Europe, how they'll be forced to wait in endless lines and not even see their own doctor, but it's not like that."

For his part, Crist has been a staunch supporter of Obamacare, even during the rough times, when the Affordable Care Act sign-up website kept crashing and the administration was getting heat from all sides.

In meeting with West Palm Beach reporters back in November, Crist admitted that things were off to a bumpy start but insisted that Obamacare was a good plan.

"Now's the time you need to show him what a friend you are," Crist said. "It's easy to be with him when he's rolling along, but when it's tough, the tough get going."

Now, with the latest news of Florida getting near the 100,000 mark of sign-ups, Crist is all about the big enrollment numbers and hitting Rick Scott where it'll hurt.

Crist expressed this enthusiasm in an email statement:

"This is great! Despite every obstacle to health care that Rick Scott put up, almost one million Floridians now have affordable health coverage, and even more Floridians would have coverage today if he had accepted federal funding for Medicaid or set up a state based exchange. If Rick Scott had his way, Floridians would be losing their health care because of coverage caps and unable to find affordable care because of pre-existing conditions."

Scott and Crist are set to debate October 15 at Broward College.

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph