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Lawmakers Lobby Feds For Medicaid Money To Make Senate's $80B Budget Work?

MGN Online

Update 4/2/2015: The federal government has delayed talks on an extension of a $2 billion healthcare program. Low-Income Pool funding, along with a plan to expand Medicaid--are key features in the Senate's 2015-2016 spending proposal and lawmakers say the move may delay negotiations between the House and Senate. Read morehere.

The Florida House and Senate are $4 billion apart on their proposed spending plans and Medicaid remains the biggest sticking point. Now Florida's Congressional delegation is weighing in, and Senate is making personal appeals to the federal government to get the funding.

The senate budget depends on getting federal approval to draw down $50 billion in the next 10 years. The senate would use that Medicaid money to insure 800,000 Floridians.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee addressed the chamber Wednesday.

“We did not create the challenges that we face in this budget cycle with healthcare, those were delivered to our door step. But we do have an obligation to recognize that funding gap,” Lee says.

Senate President Andy Gardiner dispatched two senators to Washington D.C. this week in a personal appeal for the dollars. One of them, Senator René García says “They [Federal lawmakers] understand that part of our Medicaid sustainability plan is also looking at a fix.”

García says the senate’s plan to use the federal money is a boom to uninsured Floridians.

“Making sure that individuals under 133 percent of the poverty line have access to affordable health insurance through our model… our private exchange which is Florida Healthy Choices,” García says.

Florida Health Choices is an insurance marketplace established with the goal of increasing access to affordable healthcare. That could become the state’s platform to get more uninsured people into private health plans.

And Tallahassee business owner Kim Williams is an advocate for the senate’s plan.

“The impact on the individual that has healthcare in Florida today is to hold down or bring down your rates,” Williams says. “The impact on Floridians living below the poverty level…is to give you the opportunity to participate in a program where you can get healthcare other than going to the emergency room.”

If you ask Williams, the new measure is a win-win for all Floridians.

“So the funding is there in anticipation that the fix would include a reduction in non-compensated care to hospitals. And when you bring down uncompensated care, you take away the need to raise the rates on private insurance holders in Florida like me, as a businessman and like my employees who pay part of their insurance coverage,” Williams says.

The senate’s $80 billion spending proposal depends on getting the House to go along with its plan to tap the Medicaid money, but the House remains opposed.

Keta Browning is a senior Broadcast Journalism student and reporter at Florida A&M University. Aside from her contributions to WFSU News, Keta also serves as an on-air personality for FAMU's college station WANM 90.5 FM. Born and raised in Ocala, FL, she aspires to pursue a passionate career in radio and/or entertainment journalism.