The Florida legislative session is heading into overtime after a disagreement over how to fund hospitals stalled negotiations. The two chambers reached an agreement Wednesday how to reimburse the facilities for treating low income and uninsured patients.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran took to his chamber floor to announce a budget deal.
“We do believe, that as of right now, we have agreement on the budget," he said, receiving a round of applause from representatives. "We’ll keep you posted as to what our timing is in terms of extending to get it done. We’re still working with staff to figure out how long it takes.”
That’s good news, despite being a day late.
The Wednesday announcement means lawmakers will still have to call a special session because of a constitutionally-mandated 72 hour cooling off period for the state’s budget. No vote can be taken before Saturday, depending on when the budget reaches lawmakers’ desks. The delay was due to differences in hospital funding. And Senate Healthcare Budget Chief Senator Anitere Flores noted early on the plans would be hard to reconcile:
“I’d expect that would be an issue that would be dealt with toward the end of session," she said, shortly after the first meeting of the joint healthcare budget committees last week.
Funding hospitals has become increasingly difficult in recent years. Healthcare is now the largest part of Florida’s budget—with the state spending more than $22 billion on Medicaid alone. Yet, the demands on the system keep growing.
Vince Sica heads DeSoto Memorial Hospital. It lost $840,000 last year due to Medicaid cuts and saw an increase in uninsured and underinsured patients. The result—it had to cut maternity care.
“Lawmakers have limited resources and priorities, but access to rural healthcare is being threatened," he said. "That’s why it’s critical the House and Senate adopt the Senate budget proposal and reinstate the $50 million dollars. This would hold rural hospitals harmless from additional cuts.”
Florida Hospital Association President Bruce Reuben added hospitals could lose millions and rural ones even more under the House’s plan.
“The House proposal uses a tiered formula identical to the one used last year and it doesn’t include the $50 million in non-recurring revenue as applied last year, so the total cut is a lot higher at $651 million, than it was last year.”
The FHA and rural providers wanted the legislature to adopt the Senate budget proposal which redistributed rate enhancements for some hospitals to all of them. But under that, large providers like Jackson Memorial in Miami would have lost millions while others, like the for-profit chain HCA, would get millions more.
The final result: Speaker Corcoran and President Negron have agreed to maintain the current payment structure. They’ve also approved another $40 million for nursing home payments.