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Scott Suing Feds for Holding Hospital Funds

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Associated Press
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.


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.

Scott contends that a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision bars the federal government from coercing states into expanding Medicaid. Yet, that's what the Republican governor says the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is doing because the agency insists that the hospital funds and Medicaid expansion should be part of the same discussion.

"It is appalling that President Obama would cut off federal health care dollars to Florida in an effort to force our state further into Obamacare," Scott said in a statement.

The federal-state fight has spilled over to the Florida Legislature where the House and Senate remain gridlocked with rival budgets $4 billion apart. The House is refusing to expand Medicaid and the Senate vows it will not pass a budget that includes deep cuts to hospitals.

Meanwhile, state hospitals says they're doomed without the hospital funds and advocates have rallied lawmakers almost daily saying the political bickering is jeopardizing the health of real citizens.

Federal health officials did not immediately comment on Scott's impending lawsuit, but have previously said that Florida is free to make its own choice regarding Medicaid expansion. The feds have said they want Medicaid expansion to be part of the solution in the debate over hospital funds.

Scott recently reversed course, saying he no longer supports Medicaid expansion.

Gov. Scott will expand Medicaid in state, reversing opposition to federal health overhaul.

Federal health officials say they're required to make sure tax dollars are being spent in the most responsible way and want the state to prove how relying on the hospital funds to pay for hospitals caring for those without insurance is more effective than using federal money to purchase health insurance directly for those patients.

Scott said Obama's health care law "also threatens poor families' access to the safety net health care services they need."

The Senate has proposed a compromise that would forgo Medicaid expansion and give billions in federal funds to consumers to purchase private health insurance for themselves. Recipients would be required to hold a job or go to school and contribute a small amount. Scott and the House are against it, warning the federal government can't be trusted to foot the bill.

The Obama administration has promised to never pay less than 90 percent of the cost.