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HMO Rate Cuts Dropped In Budget Talks

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

Medicaid managed care plans are no longer on the chopping block. 

The Senate late Wednesday agreed to back off a proposal to reduce Medicaid HMO payment rates by as much as $230 million in state and federal funds as lawmakers craft a budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. 

A Senate spending plan approved last month had called for the cuts, but the House did not go along. Senate health-care negotiators dropped the idea as the two chambers began working out differences Wednesday. 

After an initial round of offers in a health-care conference committee, the Senate health-care proposal totaled $37.098 billion, and the House’s proposal was just short of $37 billion.

The Senate offer late Wednesday picked up a House proposal to eliminate vacant positions at the Florida Department of Health. The spending plan would fund 31,279 full-time equivalent positions, or 340 less than what the Senate initially proposed. 

The Senate, meanwhile, kept its proposal to remove more than $8 million from the Healthy Start Program. 

Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Chairwoman Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said the Senate is concerned that the program offers duplicative services and that she is waiting for some additional information before finalizing the Senate proposal. 

“So, we are working on getting final numbers to make sure what that duplication is, and perhaps we’ll be able to reduce some of those reductions,” she said about the program, which was started by the late Gov. Lawton Chiles to improve infant health. The program serves 6,600 high-risk pregnant women and infants statewide. 

Jane Murphy, president of the Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions, said the cut would turn back 25 years of momentum in supporting healthy pregnancies. 

“Support for Healthy Start and the thousands of vulnerable families that we serve is urgently needed,” she said in a statement. 

The Senate and House conference committee on the health-care budget has until Friday morning to resolve differences. At that point, unresolved issues will go to Senate Appropriations Chairman Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, and House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami. 

Many of the differences between the chambers are in special projects. House projects aren’t funded by the Senate and vice versa. For example, the Senate budget plan doesn’t include $50,000 for the Jewish Adoption and Family Care Options Children’s Ability Center, a project put in the budget by Rep. Katie Edwards-Walpole, D-Plantation. 

Similarly, the House budget doesn’t include $1 million in funding for Our Pride Academy Child Care, a school and development training center. That project was put in the budget by Flores.

Flores and House Health Care Appropriations Chairman Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, had already acknowledged that the biggest differences in health-care policies — about Medicaid funding for nursing homes and hospitals — will be decided by House and Senate leaders and not the conference committee.