August 10, 2011- TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott, a critic of the federal health care overhaul, is paying less than $400 a year for health insurance for himself and his wife.
While Scott is accepting no salary for his job as governor, the multimillionaire and former hospital chain executive chose to enroll in the taxpayer-subsidized health insurance plan offered by the state of Florida.
Scott is among nearly 32,000 people in state government who pay relatively low health insurance premiums. It's a perk that is available to high-ranking state officials, including those in top management at all state agencies.
Nearly all 160 state legislators are also enrolled in the program that costs just $8.34 a month for individual coverage and $30 a month for family coverage.
Brian Burgess, a spokesman for Scott, confirmed the governor and his wife are enrolled in the state health insurance plan, but refused to discuss why Scott signed up. He called the governor's health care coverage "private matters."
The health insurance coverage provided to Scott used to be free for top state officials until 2010. Rank-and-file state workers pay $50 a month for individual coverage and $180 a month for family coverage. Married couples working in state government also pay the same amount as Scott and legislators.
Florida has one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation, according to data released last year by the U.S. Census. Scott and other Republicans have been very critical of the health care overhaul signed by President Barack Obama that is intended to increase the number of Americans with access to health insurance.
Before he ran for governor, Scott ran a group called Conservatives for Patients' Rights that ran television ads criticizing the health care overhaul.
Florida is one of more than 20 states suing to have the health care overhaul declared unconstitutional. In the last few months Republicans in Florida have rejected millions in federal aid that is tied to the health care overhaul.
Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, says that Scott is "entitled" to enroll in the state health insurance plan. But she said he shouldn't be fighting to keep other Floridians from getting access to health insurance coverage.
"I wish every Floridian had the same opportunity," Rich said.
Rich is one of 40 state senators who are enrolled in the state health insurance plan. A spokeswoman for the Florida House confirmed that 112 out of 120 House members are also covered by the state. Many state legislators have acknowledged that they enrolled in the state plan because it is cheaper than obtaining coverage elsewhere.
The state is projected to spend $2 billion during its current budget year to provide health insurance coverage. Most of the money spent on state worker health insurance coverage comes from taxpayers and not employee premiums.
The governor earlier this year asked lawmakers to approve an overhaul of the state's health insurance program that would force all employees to pay the same premium amount and to cap the amount of health insurance coverage provided to state workers. But the plan was not adopted by the Republican-controlled Legislature.