Kicking off a series of meetings with incoming Trump administration officials, Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday he hopes to help them devise a less costly alternative to Obamacare.
Scott said he’s talking with Donald Trump every week or two while working closely with Rep. Tom Price, the president-elect’s choice to run the government agency that oversees Medicaid, Medicare and the landmark 2010 health-insurance law.
Mirroring previous comments by Trump himself, Scott indicated that the two men are not looking to repeal the entire law, unlike some fellow Republican members of Congress.
“I’ve spent quite a bit of time already with Congressman Price, who I’ve known for a long time, to try to come up with a plan to repeal what doesn’t work and to replace it with something that’s going to drive down costs and improve access,” Scott told reporters in Washington.
Despite being asked several times for specifics of a replacement plan, Scott did not provide any.
Trump said over the weekend that any plan he and Congress devise to replace Obamacare should cover everyone, a stance at odds with many GOP lawmakers.
At a Senate health committee confirmation hearing, Price also appeared to back off from complete repeal, at least immediately, of a law that has helped 20 million Americans gain insurance in the last nearly seven years.
“Nobody’s interested in pulling the rug out from anybody,” Price said. “We believe that it’s absolutely imperative that individuals that have health care be able to keep health coverage and move hopefully to greater choices and opportunities for them to gain the kind of coverage they want.”
While the Republican-controlled Congress prepares as early as next week to vote for final repeal of Obamacare, Price said: “There’s been a lot of talk about individuals losing health coverage. That’s not our goal, nor is it our desire, nor is it our plan.”
Despite criticizing Obamacare as “a financial disaster,” Scott sounded a similar note.
“It’s important to me that people have good access to health care that they can afford,” he said. “So I want to make sure we have a Medicaid program that the taxpayers can afford (and) that people actually get good-quality health care.”
Scott expressed the hope that Attorney General Pam Bondi, named by Trump two months ago to an executive committee that oversees his transition to the White House, doesn’t go Washington to work in the administration.
“She’s become a family friend,” Scott said. “She’s been a good partner in our governing Cabinet meetings. I hope she doesn’t leave. I hope she stays in Florida.”
Bondi had been thought to be a candidate for U.S. attorney general, but Trump chose Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama for that post. Session’s Senate confirmation hearing was last week.
Scott met Wednesday with retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, Trump’s nominee to head the Homeland Security Department.
Scott said he urged Kelly, if confirmed, to share more information with him and other governors about people moving to their states who might pose security risks.
Expressing clear frustration, Scott said that he started seeking such information from senior Obama administration officials after the Paris terror attacks in November 2015 that killed 130 people.
“I asked, ‘Are you going to tell me who’s coming to my state? No. Are you going to give me the right to decide who’s coming into my state? No. Will you provide vetting information to my law enforcement or me about the individuals you’ve vetted? No.’”
Scott said he’d also discussed with Kelly escalating flood-insurance costs. The insurance program is overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is part of DHS.
Calling Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence personal friends, Scott said he’s looking forward to having more cooperative contacts in the White House and beyond.
“I’m very optimistic that in the next two years, I’ll have, one, a partner in the White House and a partner as vice president, but also Cabinet members that will help us get our agenda done,” Scott said.
Scott said his top priorities in working with the new administration are reforming health care, promoting democracy in Latin America and getting more federal help in building and maintaining Florida’s seaports.
Scott suggested that as he meets with Trump’s incoming Cabinet members, he may urge them to reverse the historic normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations that Obama began in December 2014.
“Latin America is very important to our economy,” Scott said. “I want to continue to do everything we can to promote democracy in Latin America because that means more trade, more jobs for Floridians. So I want to make sure we have a policy in Cuba that’s not an appeasement of a dictatorship, but actually a policy that’s going to promote democracy in Cuba.”
Believing that help from Washington is on the way, Scott said he’s happy to be in the capital this week to celebrate Trump’s inauguration.
“Hopefully now with the Trump administration, we’re going to have a great partner which will help us get more jobs in our state,” Scott said. “It’s an exciting week for me.”