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Hospital, Insurance Execs Ask Lawmakers To Tread Lightly On Health Care

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Hospital and insurance executives Thursday reminded First Coast lawmakers that even the smallest changes to policy could affect millions of patients.

Health insurers and providers don't always get along. For proof, last session’s balance billingdebate pitted emergency room physicians against insurers in a fight for who picks up an out-of-network patient’s tab. But on Thursday, two major leaders, in different parts of the continuum of care, shared a common request that Tallahassee commit to increasing patient access to health care overall.

Parkash Patel is the president of health delivery company Guidewell Health, a sister company to Florida Blue. He said lawmakers should be cautious because 2 million Floridians who gained insurance through the Affordable Care Act hang in the balance.

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“We could go back to where we were where we had lots of uninsured people and also it was so expensive for the people who needed health care the most. What you end up doing is getting a lot of uncompensated care, which everybody pays for,” he said.

President-elect Donald Trump has promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, which could lead to more uninsured people seeking care in emergency rooms. In Jacksonville, that means they’ll probably end up at safety net hospital UF Health.

UF Health Jacksonville CEO Russ Armistead told the delegation of mostly Republican lawmakers that now that a Republican is in the White House, he hopes they’re not “embarrassed” to take federal money. Especially when it comes to reviving the expiring Low Income Pool program — a federal and state matching fund to cover health care for the poor.

“So, my hope is with a more favorable Washington administration that maybe more federal funds will come to Florida and they’ll somehow find their way into the health care program,” he said.

Armistead said without the continuation of the program, his hospital is at risk of closing. It receives around $60 million dollars a year in LIP funding.

The Obama Administration refused to extend the program past this year because, it said, the state should instead accept federal funds to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Fernandina Beach Republican Senator Aaron Bean recently told WJCT he’s confident the program could continue under a Trump Administration

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at , at (904) 358 6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk .

Copyright 2020 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit WJCT News 89.9.

Ryan Benk is originally from Miami, Florida and came to Tallahassee to attend Florida State University. He worked on Miami Dade College’s Arts and Literature Magazine- Miamibiance Magazine and has published poetry and a short film called “ The Writer.” He’s currently working as the Newsroom’s Researcher while finishing his Creative Writing Bachelor’s Degree at Florida State University. When he’s not tracking down news, Ryan likes watching films, writing fiction and poetry, and exploring Florida.