Florida house budget writers say they expect the federal government to give the state money to support hospitals that treat uninsured patients. But they don’t believe it will remain the same as the current program, and they’re not counting on the dollars as they build a budget.
There’s a $2 billion gap in preliminary state budget plans. That empty space could easily turn into a budget hole if the federal government doesn’t renew a plan that provides hospitals with extra funding for treating large numbers of low-income patients. House Health Committee Chairman Matt Hudson says, he isn’t including the Low Income Pool money in the House’s budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year.
“It would be premature to speculate as to what parameters CMS [the federal government] will give us. Therefore we have not budgeted Lip funding in this proposal. As we receive more definitive answers from CMS, we will update our budget proposal. And we certainly hope to have resolution to this issue prior to the (end) of session," he said.
The state was in a similar position last year, but the federal government ultimately renewed the LIP program for an additional year. This time though, it’s almost certain the program is going away. The House is also striking the Low-Income Pool program from the law books. That’s left Tampa Democratic Representative Janet Cruz with questions.
“In the event we receive the LIP funding after all, would the language become Proviso or would we re-institute a statute?" She asked.
But the funding source is going away in two months, so there’s no point to keeping the law on the books, Hudson says.
“Ultimately, we have to wait and see what the new, yet-to-be named program’s limitations are. If it requires a statutory change, we can do that without having a conflicting statute on the books," Hudson said.
The federal government has said it isn’t interested in extending LIP—and is pushing the state to accept $50 billion to expand its Medicaid program to insure more low-income Floridians. A recent report by Florida Legal Services, shows the loss of LIP would largely be offset through the Medicaid expansion. The Senate is pushing a bill to draw down the Medicaid money. And the chamber took the next step by moving the proposal through its health appropriations committee. Still, Republican Senator Aaron Bean, the bill’s crafter—says conversations with the House are…slow.
“It’s the third inning in a nine inning game. So, I’m looking for some big play in some outer innings for us to score on this issue," he said.
That doesn’t bode well. But in his normally optimistic tone, Bean says, "It’s early….It’s early.”
Meanwhile, the House’s Representative Hudson says negotiations with the federal government to keep the Low-Income Pool funds is ongoing. And he says there’s an option to keep the money flowing—and just call it something else.
“Right now, I’m not going to speculate on what the feds may or may not do in terms of the terms and conditions of the new, yet-to-be named program.”
And that’s where things stand in week three of 2015 lawmaking session.