Ice Breaks As House And Senate Start Weighing Plan B For LIP

Apr 24, 2015

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (l) and Sen. President Andy Gardiner (r) speak with reporters before the start of the legislative session.
Credit Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

The icy relationship between the House and Senate over healthcare funding may be thawing. The House and Senate have started negotiations on an alternative way to fund hospitals if a federal program expires as scheduled.

The House takes $200 million  in general revenue and steers it toward healthcare. It expects to pull down $300 million in federal matching funds to offer some support to hospitals if they lose a $2 billion low-income pool program that reimburses them for indigent care. It expires this summer and some hospitals say they could be financially devastated. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli has said he would not “backfill” the LIP program with state money. Now, he says the House offer attempts to get conversations started, and hospitals should begin re-evaluating their budgets:

“They built their budgets around what I would call a lottery. This is money that’s been coming to them for about several years now they’ve built budgets around and sometimes you have to restructure in business because revenues change," he said.

The House is taking money from its tax cut plans and education funding proposals. But hospitals would still face bug shortfalls.

The Senate, however, has $600 million in state money sitting in reserves to fill the gap. And it would use that funding to draw down $900 million  from the federal government. Under the Senate’s scenario, hospitals could still break even. But state economist Amy Baker recently pointed out using state money is not an ideal situation.

“You don’t make the state whole relative to the impact of losing the federal dollars, and that’s because you’re lost those dollars from the economy, you’re only realigning, she said.

Baker says what realigning does do, however, is lessen the impact the loss of federal money has on the economy.

The Senate has rejected the House’s healthcare funding offer and doubled-down on its plan to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Baker told lawmakers the Senate’s Medicaid proposal would save the state about $260 million in the first year, and result in a budget surplus down the line. And the Senate wants to use those savings to increase its education funding plan to what has been proposed in the House. But when it comes to everything else, Senate Appropriations Chief Tom Lee said the state has to address healthcare.

“Until we get clarity and visibility on the healthcare funding picture in Florida, there can be no other priorities.”

Late Friday the House came out with a new offer. It wants to increase it’s state contribution to $600 million -- in line with the Senate plan. But in return, the chamber wants the Senate to drop it’s Medicaid expansion stance. In a statement, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli says he doesn’t think it’s necessary for lawmakers to stay in Tallahassee until June 30th—which is what the Senate wants to do.