The Florida Department of Health has closed a loophole in the state’s healthcare programs for low income families. The Department has made a deal to provide dental services to foster care children in eight counties.
Repealing the federal health law would add an additional 19 million to the ranks of the uninsured in 2016 and increase the federal deficit over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office said Friday.
The state last month removed about 2,000 children from a specialized program that provides services to medically fragile kids, finding that they were no longer "clinically eligible" under a new screening process.
But the move by the Department of Health to re-evaluate children in the Children's Medical Services Network is drawing criticism from pediatricians and some children's advocates.
The Central Florida YMCA got a $1.7 million grant from the UnitedHealth Foundation. It will fund a three-year pilot program called HealthierLifeRX.
Those enrolled will spend 12 months working with a doctor and a personalized health and lifestyle coach to achieve health care goals. State Rep. Jason Brodeur said if the program is successful, he’d like to see it replicated in Medicaid.
Vikki Wachino, director of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in a letter dated May 21 that Florida can likely expect $1 billion in the budget year that begins July 1 for the Low Income Pool.
The Obama administration has made an offer that it hopes will resolve Florida’s $1 billion state budget stalemate over health care funds for poor people.
Federal health officials agreed to extend Florida’s hospital funds for another two years, but only at about half the amount the state received last year. That means Florida lawmakers may have to dip into the state budget to fill the gap or state hospitals will get less money in the coming year.
In a letter Thursday to Gov. Rick Scott, federal officials stressed that they would not use Low Income Pool hospital funds to cover anyone who could be covered by Medicaid expansion, but they also acknowledged the loss of those funds may be difficult for the state. The current hospital funds are $2.1 billion dollars, put up by the state and federal government. The administration’s preliminary offer drops that to $1 billion for the 2015-2016 fiscal year and to $600 million the following year.
The proposal is still subject to a formal review but federal officials said they wanted to work with the state in good faith, recognizing that the Legislature needs to pass a budget by June 30 to avoid a state government shutdown.
“The decision about whether or not to expand Medicaid is a state option … (R)egardless of whether a state expands Medicaid, uncompensated care pool funding should not pay for costs that would be covered in Medicaid expansion,” federal health officials said in the letter.
The funds, which are part of a federal program that covers the hospital bills of uninsured and Medicaid patients, were supposed to end this year as President Barack Obama’s health care program grew. Patients covered by the low-income pool were supposed to be covered by Medicaid, but the Florida House and Scott have balked at expanding it.
The bitter standoff between the Republican governor and the Obama administration tore apart the state legislative session, with the House abruptly adjourning three days early last month. Scott sued the Obama administration, comparing federal officials to the TV mobster show “The Sopranos” and accusing them of withholding the hospital funds because the state wouldn’t expand Medicaid.
The dispute created a $1 billion hole in the governor’s budget that should now be much easier for lawmakers to address when they return for a special session June 1.
Scott pressed for the extension for months, even visiting Washington twice and blaming the Obama administration for ruining his budget and ignoring his timeline even though he’s known for more than a year that the funds were ending. He waited until mid-April to submit a proposal, although the months-long required public comment period made it impossible to get an answer before the Legislature adjourned last month.
The Obama administration and hospitals want the governor to expand Medicaid to more than 800,000 low-income Floridians and will not spend federal hospital funds on those who would be covered by Medicaid expansion. That’s because federal health officials say it’s more efficient to use the money to give people health insurance than to pay hospitals for caring for the uninsured retroactively.
But Scott and Republican House leaders refuse to accept any money tied to the Affordable Care Act - including Medicaid expansion. They even snubbed a Senate proposal that would eventually take billions of federal dollars and allow the Medicaid expansion recipients to buy private health insurance - a solution that Scott has fought for in the past.
The House and Senate recently announced they would discuss Medicaid expansion during the special session, snubbing the governor’s call to focus only on the budget.
Senate leaders had prepared to move ahead with a health care coverage plan during the upcoming special session, but the announcement from the federal government bolsters the argument of House Republicans who maintained that the state would continue to receive a decent chunk of the hospital money without having to expand Medicaid.
During a recent closed-door session, House and Senate budget chiefs discussed the House’s objections to the Senate’s current proposal. Senate budget chief Tom Lee agreed there were “reasonable” concerns raised about the Senate plan.
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.
Saying the Low Income Pool is "not a long-term solution and often yields inequitable results," the hospital company HCA has sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott calling for an overhaul of the way Florida pays for care of low-income patients.
HCA, which has 46 hospitals in the state, recommended increasing base Medicaid payment rates for hospitals --- and offered the possibility of increasing a hospital-provider tax to help finance the changes. Money collected through such a tax hike could be used to draw down additional federal Medicaid funding.
Click here to listen to WUSF's Steve Newborn talking with PolitiFact Florida's Josh Gillen
The quagmire in Tallahassee over health care spending forced an early end to the spring legislative session. At the heart of it is a federal program known as the Low Income Pool, or LIP. It reimburses Florida hospitals more than two billion dollars a year for providing care to low-income or indigent patients. The federal government is phasing the program out as it shifts to new programs provided by the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
Now, Gov. Scott is making the rounds in Washington D.C., trying to prod the feds to keep funding LIP. Now, Scott has backtracked from his previous position on supporting expansion of Medicaid in the state to serve low-income residents.
Scott recently spoke to reporters in the nation's capitol.
"The families that are covered through the Low Income Pool is a different group of individuals than are covered by Obamacare," Scott said.
Click on the video below to hear what he had to say about LIP and Medicaid:
This makes it sound as if the people who would qualify for Medicaid under an expansion are completely different than patients who leave hospitals with unpaid bills the LIP fund helps pay to providers. Health policy experts said that while there would still be uninsured people not paying their bills under an expansion, plenty of overlap exists between the two, especially at lower incomes.
Gov. Rick Scott on Monday announced his nine appointments to a commission tasked with examining hospital finances, naming only one health care professional to the commission and a chair that has been a frequent donor to the governor and other Republican causes.
The governor has gone on the attack against hospitals over a fight to expand Medicaid and extend federal funds that help hospitals who care for Medicaid and uninsured patients. The issue is creating a potential $1 billion hole in the state budget.
Top Republicans in the Florida House made an offer Thursday to try to bridge a budget gap with Senate Republicans, but it could still result in the state's hospitals getting significantly less than they are receiving now.
House leaders offered to trim back spending on tax cuts and education - in order to boost spending in the state's safety net health care program. The offer, however, would be unconnected to a push by the Senate to expand Medicaid or revamp an existing program that takes federal money for hospitals.
This is the third part in our series, Falling Into The Gap, in collaboration with the Miami Herald. Read more about the coverage gap and find affordable care on WLRN.org/healthgap.
Every Tuesday, a giant blue bus parks in front of the Pentecostal Tabernacle Church in Miami Gardens. Inside looks like a doctor’s office with a reclining exam chair and anatomical charts. You only know that it’s not a traditional office when it shakes as people get on and off.
Florida families may have read about a fight over Medicaid expansion in Tallahassee and how it may impact adults. Fewer have heard how the fight is jeopardizing money our state desperately needs to care for some of our sickest children.
18 month old Ana and four year old Connor McCorkle are two of the thousands of children who ended up in the middle of the battle through no fault of their own. The children of a firefighter and a law student were born with a rare disease that affects their nerves and muscles and are treated by our neurologist, one of very few in the country.
The state agency responsible for Medicaid submitted a new proposal Monday to the federal government for up to $2.2 billion in health-care funding, but the move might be too late to break a budget impasse.
The new model for the Low Income Pool, or LIP, program closely follows legislation approved by the state Senate earlier this month. LIP, which is largely used to cover the expenses of uninsured, low-income Floridians who show up at hospitals needing treatment, is set to expire June 30.
Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday he is suing the Obama administration for withholding hospital funds because the state won't expand Medicaid.
The announcement is another twist in what has been a gritty yearlong battle with the feds over roughly $1 billion in funds for Florida hospitals that serve low-income people. The fight has come to a head as the state Legislature is desperate for an answer from the feds so it can finalize a state budget before May 1.
House Republicans quietly deepened recommended budget savings from the government's chief health care program for the poor by about $140 billion in recent weeks to offset part of the cost of higher payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients, according to officials familiar with the tradeoff.
The maneuver comes as Republicans in both houses struggle with competing priorities, in this case a desire to stabilize what is widely viewed as a dysfunctional system of provider payments under Medicare, while pursuing a 10-year goal of balancing the budget.
In a move that creates a $5 billion divide with the House, the Senate released a budget proposal Thursday that banks on expanding health-care coverage for low-income Floridians and extending a critical funding program for hospitals.
The Senate proposal, approved by a key budget panel and touted by President Andy Gardiner, reinforces that health-care funding could be the most-vexing issue facing lawmakers during the rest of this year's legislative session.
The Florida Senate is working on bills that would increase the amount of federal Medicaid money used to fund mental health and substance abuse problems, Florida Politics reports. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services will discuss the bill drafts Monday at its meeting.