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FHA President: FHIX Not a 'Handout'

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Daylina Miller/Health News Florida
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Hospital administrators and Democratic lawmakers are still trying to persuade Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida House on an alternative to Medicaid expansion.

A coalition called "A Healthy Florida Works" is urging the lawmakers to accept a revamped proposal from the Florida Senate. They met today at the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce.

Bruce Rueben, president of the Florida Hospital Association, said there are significant differences in the proposal from an earlier version.

"They've (the Senate) added significant requirements for personal accountability,” Rueben said. “There are work, job requirements, education requirements. This is not just a handout. This is literally a hand up and in that regard, it's different than what's been on the table before."

Under the Senate plan, low-income Floridians could buy coverage through a new state-run exchange called the Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange, known as the FHIX.

“We really need to, as a matter of compassion and humanity, cover some of the 800,000 people, many of which are working, some working two jobs to make ends meet,” said State Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg.

“You know, we talk about ‘Let’s get back to work.’ Let’s get healthy and get back to work.”

Low-income Floridians could buy health care coverage through FHIX, but have to have a job and pay premiums. The matter of federal funding is still an issue, according to the Associated Press.

The Obama administration is trying to entice states to expand Medicaid by offering to pay the entire bill and then 90 percent after that. It's a much more generous rate than the state's share for the current Medicaid population, which is a 60-40 split with the federal government. But the Republicans are reluctant to take any money tied to Obama's health care law.

Medicaid expansion is an optional part of the federal health law, but 30 other states, including the District of Columbia, have done it.

Disagreement over health spending caused the legislative session to end three days early and lawmakers are due back in Tallahassee on Monday, June 1.

Federal officials, in an attempt to help resolve the legislative stalemate, said last week that they’ll extend Florida’s hospital funds for the Low-Income Pool program for another two years, but only at about half the amount the state received last year.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, said the funds from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is just “a Band-Aid on a broken leg.”

“One million of our neighbors took personal responsibility and went and signed up and are paying their premiums and co-pays,” Castor said. “In Florida, we had such a disjointed system in the past.”

This is the next important step, rather than this inefficient low-income pool that I previously fought for to bring those billions of dollars here. They don’t fit in the modern health delivery system anymore. The more efficient and wise use of our tax dollars is coverage so folks can see a doctor or nurses on a regular basis.”

Daylina Miller is a reporter with WUSFin Tampa. WUSF is a part of Health News Florida, which receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Daylina Miller is a multimedia reporter for WUSF and Health News Florida, covering health in the Tampa Bay area and across the state.