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2015 Legislative Session Heading for OT As Senate Panel Confirms AHCA's Dudek

Agency For Healthcare Administration
Credit Agency For Healthcare Administration

The Florida legislature has passed the point of no return and lawmakers are preparing for an extended session.  The Senate’s budget chief says he doesn’t think lawmakers can get done on time .

The problem is the big gap between the House and Senate on how to fund healthcare. The Senate wants to use federal Medicaid dollars to create a privatized version of a Medicaid expansion. The House says no. Complicating it is uncertainty over whether a jointly funded $2 billion program reimbursing hospitals for uncompensated care will be renewed by the federal government—and how much the state will get. Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee says it’s hard to go forward on a budget without those issues addressed:

“We have an honest policy disagreement and its going to create a problem for us getting our budget done. That’s very clear and obvious now. It’s going to make it impossible to get everyone’s priorities funded and resolved in this 60-day legislative session, but that’s no reason not to respect one another and our policy differences. How we resolve those, I don’t know."

And that means Florida lawmakers could be spending the start of their summer in Tallahassee.

Meanwhile, Florida Agency For Healthcare Administration Secretary Liz Dudek was confirmed by the Senate Ethics Committee. But lawmakers grilled Dudek for more than an hour about her agency's role in leading the state's negotiations over the LIP program.

Florida Healthcare Secretary Liz Dudek says negotiations over a key healthcare program with the federal government remain in limbo. But one possible outcome is that the $2 billion low-income pool program could be cut in half. LIP reimburses hospitals for uncompensated care, and there are several hospitals in the state that could see drastic cuts if the program goes away entirely. Speaking to reporters after her Senate Confirmation hearing, Dudek says her agency is pushing for an answer from the federal government .

“I think in developing a budget I think they’d like to have some number to work from. That’s what we’re trying to get from our negotiations is, if we’re to have a program and something you’d approve, what number would that be? And that’s what we’re trying to work on.” 

A decision on the LIP program is key to getting state budget talks jump-started. The federal government has confirmed that its decision on a renewal of the Low-Income pool may hinge on whether the state decides to accept more federal Medicaid dollars to insure up to a million more Floridians.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.