News from Tallahassee for 5/22/15

Feds Say FL Could Get $1 Billion For Low Income Pool posted on 5/21/15

by AP

caduceusA top federal official told Florida it can likely expect $1 billion in the budget year that begins July 1 for a key health-care program known as the Low Income Pool, according to a letter dated Thursday.

That would amount to about half of the amount the state currently receives.

"We note that this level of funding for the LIP, coupled with the options the state may elect at its discretion described in this letter, would enable Florida to retain Medicaid investment in the state at or above the current $2.16 billion level of LIP funding,'' said the letter from Vikki Wachino, director of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The News Service will have a full report later Thursday.

Hospital Commission Set for First Meeting posted on 5/20/15

by AP

Gov. Rick Scott’s new hospital commission consists of Republican donors and business leaders who will likely help him go after some of the state’s hospitals as the standoff over Medicaid expansion intensifies.

The panel, which will meet for the first time today, is beginning its work as the governor has become increasingly antagonistic toward hospitals that receive taxpayer funds in the face of a $1 billion hole in his budget.

Scott wants the federal government to extend the hospital funds, known as the low-income pool, which helps hospitals that care for Medicaid and uninsured patients. But the Obama administration and the hospitals want the Republican governor to expand Medicaid to more than 800,000 low-income Floridians, arguing it’s more efficient to use the money to give people insurance than to pay hospitals for caring for the uninsured retroactively.

The standoff between Scott and the Obama administration has also caused a mess in the state Legislature. Scott and Republican House leaders remain adamantly opposed to taking any money tied to so-called “Obamacare,” including Medicaid expansion. The federal government would foot the bill for the first few years and then pay 90 percent after that - a far more generous deal than the 60-40 split in the current Medicaid program.

Scott says Medicaid expansion would cost the state $5 billion over 10 years. But even if the Obama administration agrees to extend the hospitals funds, it would still cost the state $9 billion in matching funds over 10 years, yet not a single person would have gained health insurance.

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Hospital chain gives Rick Scott committee $100,000 on day he announces hospital commission posted on 5/7/15

by matt dixon | Tribune/Scripps Capital Bureau

TALLAHASSEE — The same day Gov. Rick Scott announced the creation of a new hospital commission and a Washington trip to secure federal hospital money, the state’s largest hospital chain gave $100,000 to the lame-duck governor’s political committee.

The money was from Hospital Corporation of America, a Tennessee-based company that would stand to gain millions if Scott’s federal negotiations are successful. On Tuesday, the company wrote three checks totaling $100,000 to Let’s Get to Work, a political committee controlled by Scott, disclosure records show.

Both HCA and Scott’s office say that they did not discuss the trip or his state commission before his office made the announcements.

“No one at HCA had advanced notice of the announcement nor was the contribution given in connection to either the D.C. trip or the commission,” said Lori Modafferi, a company spokeswoman.

That same day as the contribution, Scott issued an executive order creating the Commission on Hospital and Healthcare Funding, which will look at the flow of taxpayer dollars through the state’s health care system.

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Scott Heads To Washington To Talk LIP Funding posted on 5/6/15

by BRANDON LARRABEE | News Service of Florida

fl gov rick scottSetting off for Washington, D.C., to meet with federal officials over health-care money at the heart of a state budget crisis, Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday flatly ruled out a Senate plan to extend private insurance coverage to hundreds of thousands of lower-income Floridians.

Scott, who once supported Medicaid expansion, said last month that he now opposes a Senate proposal to use expansion dollars for the private insurance plan. But his remarks to reporters on what he would tell federal officials about the Senate initiative marked his strongest rejection yet.

"It's not going to happen," Scott said. "There's no support in the House. I'm not going to support it. It's not a program that's worked."

Scott is expected to meet Wednesday in Washington with Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about the $2.2 billion Low Income Pool, or LIP, program, which is scheduled to expire June 30. The program sends money to hospitals and other health providers that care for large numbers of low-income residents, and uncertainty about its future has played a major role in a budget impasse between the Senate and House.

The governor spoke repeatedly Tuesday about getting Burwell to "reconsider" a decision on the Low Income Pool, even though Burwell's department has not made a final decision on the program. While the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which Burwell oversees, has said the future and funding level of LIP would be tied to whether the state expands Medicaid, federal officials can't legally rule on Florida's request for LIP funding until early July.

Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi have filed a lawsuit to try to force the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to stop linking the LIP decision and the state's intentions on Medicaid expansion. Senate leaders reject the notion that they want to expand Medicaid, but their private-insurance plan would rely on federal funding and would serve the same population as a Medicaid expansion envisioned in the federal Affordable Care Act.

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Gov. Rick Scott leaves meeting with HHS Secretary Burwell empty-handed posted on 5/6/15

by alex leary | tampa bay times

fl gov rick scottWASHINGTON, D.C. — Gov. Rick Scott's trip to Washington D.C. in search of a way to plug Florida's hospital funding shortfall didn't pay off.

Scott met with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell this morning to talk about renewing a $2.2 billion hospital funding program for Florida. HHS has told Florida the program is being phased out.

Afterward, Scott told reporters "we don't have a resolution" to the funding dispute,

Florida lawmakers have been unable to agree on how to plug the gap left by ending the Low Income Pool (LIP) program or whether to endorse a Medicaid expansion, a conflict that led to the abrupt end of the Legislature's regular session a week ago. The state has not yet approved a budget for its fiscal year beginning July 1.

"Now we're in a time crunch," Scott said. "If we don't have an answer our only solution is a base budget. That's what I'm working on now, is to make sure that we keep government working. Let's remember, this started with a federal government program for low-income families. Low income families deserve to have an answer."

Scott and Burwell's session had the potential to be awkward. After all, the governor is suing her. Burwell is named as a defendant in Scott's recent suit alleging that the Obama administration is trying to force Florida into expanding Medicaid by ending the LIP program.

"The federal government shouldn't be trying to coerce us to expand Obamacare with an existing program at they started," Scott told reporters Wednesday, echoing a theme of his lawsuit.

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