Florida Gov. Rick Scott reversed course on Wednesday and said his state would temporarily accept the provision expanding Medicaid coverage included in the new healthcare law spearheaded by President Barack Obama.
Scott becomes the seventh GOP governor to sign on to the plan, rejected by some high-profile state chief executives still at odds with the politically charged law considered by many Republicans as a government overreach and widely known as Obamacare.
Scott changed his mind after the federal government agreed to grant the Sunshine State a waiver allowing for the privatization of Medicaid, which Scott had said was a necessary step before he endorsed expansion of the healthcare program for the poor.
"While the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care," he said. "We will support a three-year expansion of our Medicaid program under the new healthcare law, as long as the federal government meets their commitment to pay 100 percent of the cost during this time."
The federal government will pick up the total cost of the expensive expansion for the first three years, after which the funding will phase down to 90%. The program covers all adults with annual incomes at or below 133% of the federal poverty level, which is currently $14,404 for an individual.
Scott said he supports legislation that "would sunset after three years and need to be reauthorized."
During his 2010 bid for governor, he campaigned heavily against Obama's health plan, including the so-called "individual mandate" at the core of the initiative that requires citizens to obtain health insurance.
He had vowed to support GOP attempts to repeal the law, but after Obama's re-election in November conceded those efforts were unlikely to succeed.
He also said he wouldn't implement the Medicaid expansion, along with a measure establishing state run health care exchanges. In its 2012 decision upholding Obamacare, the Supreme Court ruled that states could opt out of those elements of the law.
Scott said in his Wednesday statement that his decision "is not a white flag of surrender to government-run healthcare" but instead practical. If his state had opted out, he argued, Floridians' federal taxes would be funding this coverage in other states while uninsured people in Florida received no benefit.
Scott joined Rick Snyder of Michigan, John Kasich of Ohio, Jan Brewer of Arizona, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Susana Martinez of New Mexico, and Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota in endorsing the Medicaid expansion. So far, 19 states and the District of Columbia have indicated they will accept the federal funds.
Other Republican governors, including some who are considered potential 2016 presidential candidates, have rejected all or parts of the measure, including Bobby Jindal in Louisiana and Rick Perry in Texas.
Gov. Bob McDonnell joined them on Wednesday in announcing his opposition to the Medicaid expansion. He cited future costs to his state.
"To do so would be irresponsible and place crushing financial burdens on future governors and legislatures," he said in a statement.
At least 10 states have so far said no.
Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey, another potential presidential candidate, has yet to detail his plans on the Medicaid expansion.
While Scott said Wednesday that he supports the Medicaid expansion, final approval will be required from the state's legislature.
The Supreme Court last summer upheld the individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion, though it allowed states to choose whether to participate in the expansion program. It could reduce the number of uninsured adults by more than 11 million by 2019, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation estimate.