No agreement between Florida governor, feds on Medicaid

Author: Associated Press
Published: Updated:
MGN Online

WASHINGTON (AP) – Despite meeting with the Obama administration in Washington on Wednesday, Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott said the two are still far apart on health care financing issues that have paralyzed the state’s efforts to pass a new budget.

Scott said he “had a good conversation” with federal Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell but added, “we don’t have resolution.”

The governor wants the administration to extend $1 billion in low-income pool funds for hospitals that treat uninsured and Medicaid patients and the federal government wants Florida to expand Medicaid so more people have insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Eight other states, including Texas, also receive the hospital funds and are closely watching the standoff between Florida and the federal government. Florida’s funds are the first to expire on June 30th.

In some of his harshest comments yet, Scott criticized the agency for not giving an answer and essentially blowing apart budget talks.

“Before the session, HHS knew our budget timeline and they did not act to keep the LIP program,” Scott said.

But federal health officials told Florida well over a year ago that the funds were ending when they granted the state an extension with the condition that Florida come up with alternative funding.

Scott has repeatedly accused the federal government of abruptly stopping the funds and offered no backup plan, and the legislative session imploded over the stalemate, with the House unexpectedly adjourning three days early last week.

State lawmakers, including fellow Republicans, have criticized the governor for not being as engaged as he should have been considering the severity of the budget dispute. As the House and Senate were frantically trying to come up with an agreement and the Senate filed a lawsuit attempting to force the House to return to work, Scott was at a gas station opening and visiting a giant Ferris wheel in Orlando.

Scott told the Obama administration that taking away the LIP money will hurt Florida families, yet the governor refuses to expand Medicaid insurance to more than 800,000 low-income Floridians.

“I told her that we need federal action right now. The low-income families in our state cannot wait on the federal government any longer.”

Two years ago, when Scott was getting ready to run for re-election, he spoke in support of Medicaid expansion, calling it a compassionate and common sense solution. He’s since reversed his position, saying Floridians will have to pay a share of it, and that will mean higher taxes.

The expansion is fully funded by Washington through 2016, and never dips below 90 percent after. That’s well above what the federal government pays now for the regular Medicaid population.

That’s part of the reason the Obama administration has remained firm on the issue, arguing that getting more people insured through Medicaid is a more efficient way to make sure Florida hospitals get paid.

The agency did not immediately comment Wednesday.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, D-Florida, criticized Scott for his lack of leadership.

“Florida is not a corporation, it is a community – and Gov. Scott should govern accordingly,” Nelson said in a statement. “Right now he’s showing a callous disregard for the needs of many of his fellow Floridians.”

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