Florida Governor Rick says he didn’t get an answer on whether the federal government would renew a $2 billion program reimbursing hospitals for uncompensated care. The fate of the Low-Income pool is at the center of a budget impasse in the state.
Scott met today with federal health officials to lobby for a renewal of the LIP program. It reimburses hospitals for uncompensated care and the state has known for a year it will expire in June. In a statement, federal health officials repeated their stance that the state’s current request for an extension falls short of a requirement that any renewal partly depends on whether health coverage is increased.
"The state’s Low Income Pool (LIP), an optional time-limited demonstration program, will not be extended in its current form beyond June 2015," the statement read. The three principles by which the LIP and other uncompensated care pool proposals will be reviewed are:
- Coverage rather than uncompensated care pools is the best way to secure affordable access to health care for low-income individuals, and uncompensated care pool funding should not pay for costs that would be covered in a Medicaid expansion;
- Medicaid payments should support services provided to beneficiaries and low-income uninsured individuals; and
- Provider payment rates must be sufficient to promote provider participation and access, and should support plans in managing and coordinating care.
The Florida Senate has proposed expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act as a solution, but Governor Rick Scott and the House are opposed.
Some Florida hospitals say they may be forced to close their doors if LIP expires and there’s no additional revenues to replace it. Scott is forming a commission to look at public hospital financing.
Meanwhile, Florida is suing the federal government over the impending loss of the money. It claims the federal government is using the LIP money to coerce it into expanding Medicaid. The U.S. Supreme Court's 2012 ruling made Medicaid expansion optional and struck down a portion of the ACA that said state's would lose their Medicaid funding if they failed to expand the program.
Scott addressed reporters after his meeting. Video by the Tampa Bay Times.
Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, issued a statement responding to the Governor's remarks. Joyner doubled down on the Senate's Medicaid expansion plan, and believes the Governor is being disingenuous in his remarks about helping poor and uninsured Floridians.
“The low income families in our state haven’t been waiting on the federal government, Governor Scott, they’ve been waiting on you,” said Leader Joyner in response to Scott’s remarks following his meeting with the HHS Secretary earlier today. “It was your administration that signed off on the agreement to end LIP in its current form next month. It was your administration that sat on its hands instead of crafting an alternative solution that the feds notified you would be needed. And it was you who fought against Obamacare before you supported it before you opposed it again, precipitating the House’s unconstitutional departure and the session to crash and burn.
“So don’t claim feigned outrage at the federal government’s decision to abide by the agreement struck one year ago. And don’t claim you now have the welfare of the low income families in this state as the reason for your finger-jabbing at Washington. Because one million uninsured Floridians you callously blocked from healthcare expansion are testament to the contrary.”
The Florida legislature has announced it will reconvene in a special session from June 1-20th to hammer out a budget. The House and Senate are still at odds over healthcare funding.