Texas, Kansas to join Florida lawsuit against administration

Author: Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) – Governors in Kansas and Texas said Monday they’ll join Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s fight against the Obama administration to free billions of federal hospital dollars even if the states don’t expand Medicaid.

The three Republican governors want an extension on federal funds that help hospitals that care for uninsured and Medicaid patients. But the federal government wants states to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, arguing it’s more efficient to give people money to help buy health insurance than to pay hospitals for caring for the uninsured retroactively.

Scott filed a lawsuit last month alleging that federal officials are coercing the state to expand Medicaid to get $1 billion in federal hospital funds. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Monday he plans to file an amicus brief and condemned the federal government from cutting off health care dollars “in an effort to force Obamacare upon the states.”

“In joining with Florida and Texas, Kansas is protecting the states’ right to make their own determinations about these issues,” Brownback said in a statement.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who sued the Obama administration more than two dozen times while attorney general, also has said he will support Scott’s litigation. Scott said Monday he’d spoken by phone with his Texas counterpart.

The governors are using a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision that the federal government can’t coerce states to expand Medicaid, which is exactly what they say the Obama administration is doing by withholding hospital funds.

But legal experts say that Supreme Court case doesn’t necessarily apply. That’s because the hospital funds are part of an optional program, and the federal government has broad discretion over it.

The Sunshine State filed the first lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act and was eventually joined by about two dozen other states.

Only nine states get the low-income pool hospital funds. Florida’s is the first to expire on June 30, but other states are watching closely as the federal government has said the guidelines it uses to decide in the Florida case will be used in other states.

The states say they don’t want to expand a broken Medicaid system, even though they could take federal dollars and tailor it to a program that expands health insurance by giving recipients money to purchase private insurance. But Republicans remain staunchly opposed to taking any federal funds tied to the president’s health overhaul law.

Florida’s House abruptly adjourned three days early last week because of the stalemate.

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