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Gov. Scott answers Medicaid critics at GOP women's dinner

Friends of Gov. Rick Scott honored him Sunday at a dinner hosted by the Florida Federation of Republican Women in Tallahassee. Scott used the event to explain in detail his controversial decision two weeks ago to support a three-year expansion of Medicaid.

Tepid applause could be heard when Scott raised the topic, recalling his past opposition to Hillary Clinton’s 1994 health care proposal and President Barack Obama’s 2008 plan. When the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare and Obama won re-election, he said, he had two choices: refuse federal Medicaid money that is paid in part by Florida taxpayers, or take the money and try to improve the health care system.

“That was my rationale. I know it doesn’t make everybody happy. I think it’s the right decision for the state,” Scott said. “It’s not the most popular thing I can do every day. The most popular thing is to not be involved in the decision somehow.”

Scott said he was guided by th example of his late mother Esther, who needed to get care at a Shriners hospital in Missouri for his brother’s hip injuries. “If it was my mom sitting here, she would have made the same decision,” Scott said.  

In a Hotel Duval ballroom with nearly 200 women, the re-election-minded Scott was hailed as a strong leader and man of conviction with a record of surrounding himself with strong, capable women. “He practices what he preaches. There are no empty promises,” said Karen Bowling, a longtime Scott business associate. “He backs up his words with actions.”

Also speaking on Scott’s behalf was Susie Wiles, a lobbyist and manager of Scott’s successful 2010 race, who said women “flocked to support this man” because of Scott’s ability to empower and trust women.  Republican National Committeewoman Sharon Day recalled how “I didn’t know Rick Scott,” but he  ordered a chai tea when they met at a Starbucks in Fort Lauderdale and had straight answers to “the rumors” about his business record.

-- Steve Bousquet