The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which allowed a three-year extension of Florida’s Statewide Medicaid Managed Care program, approved only a one-year extension of the Low Income Pool (LIP). The LIP provides the state with additional federal Medicaid funding that hospitals can use to address the issue of uncompensated care for uninsured patients.
By specifically limiting LIP to only one year, CMS has further clarified what was already clear: the LIP provides only a short-term Band-aid for the problem of uncompensated care, not the real and lasting remedy that is needed.
A primary cause of Florida’s uncompensated care crisis is its high rate of uninsured – among the highest in the nation, particularly among those who are the least able to pay for health care. And while the LIP program remains an essential resource for sustaining Florida’s indispensable hospital safety net, it does nothing to resolve that crisis.
Rather, the most obvious, direct and effective way to address the problem would be to accept the federal funding on the table under the Affordable Care Act to extend Medicaid or alternative coverage to more than a million uninsured, low-income Floridians.
By accepting health care expansion, Florida could see an infusion of more than $51 billion in already-paid federal tax dollars back into Florida over the next 10 years that would not only permanently reduce uncompensated care costs, but provide significant long-term benefits to Floridians and Florida’s economy as well.
Since Jan. 1, when the money became available, Florida has been missing out on millions of dollars a day. The total now is up to $1.5 billion.
There simply is no reason not to opt for a lasting solution. Opponents have raised no legitimate objections to accepting health care expansion. The only remaining barrier is political, and the Obama Administration has for its part set politics aside in granting the extension of the waiver. The Florida Legislature should quickly follow suit; far too much is at stake to justify doing otherwise.