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Scott agrees to accept $35.7M federal grant

Gov. Rick Scott will allow a state agency to accept a $35.7-million federal health grant, even though the funds flow from a law that Scott hates and says is invalid.

The Agency for Health Care Administration won the “Money Follows the Person” grant from the Department of Health and Human Services on Feb. 22. Florida was one of 13 states that won the grants, which pay for services that enable people who are mentally or physically disabled to get out or stay out of nursing homes.

The money was allocated through the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – the same law that Florida is contesting in federal court. But the grant does nothing to carry out the Act itself, Scott spokeswoman Amy Graham explained in an e-mail.

“The state will not be drawing down any dollars that bring about the implementation of ObamaCare,” she said, using opponents’ slang term for the Act.

A spokeswoman for HHS, Mary Kahn, said only, “We’re glad they’re taking the money.”

Signed into law last spring, the Act aims to provide health coverage for more than 34 million uninsured Americans, including most of Florida’s 4 million uninsured.

But the state has not welcomed the Act. Former Attorney Gen. Bill McCollum filed suit against the federal government on behalf of 26 states to have it thrown out, and his successor Pam Bondi has carried the litigation forward.

A month ago, U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola ruled that the Act was unconstitutional. Even though Vinson’s opinion is at odds with three other federal judges who have weighed the law, Scott said right after it was issued that it blocked the effect of the Act in Florida.

He told state agencies not to engage in any work that would help carry out the Act .

Soon after, Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty forfeited a $1 million federal grant to the Office of Insurance Regulation. It would have enabled OIR to hire workers and upgrade technology so that the agency could analyze premium rate increases in large-group plans.

Checking rate increases to see whether they’re justified is one of the tasks that states will need to carry out under the Act.

Vinson’s ruling is one of five by federal judges, with three saying it is constitutional and two saying it is not. The case is expected to go to appellate courts soon.

AHCA applied for the grant during the administration of Scott’s predecessor, Charlie Crist. Scott came into office in January after a campaign that blasted the federal health law and vowed to shrink the size of government. In just a few short weeks in office, Scott has become nationally known for turning down federal grants, notably a whopping $2 billion for high-speed rail.

With the “Money Follows the Person” grant, Florida will take part in a project that has run successfully in 29 other states. HHS estimates the program has helped 12,000 individuals move out of institutions.


Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.