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Gardiner Says Health Funding 'Remains To Be Seen'

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando.

With Florida facing another cut next year in a key hospital-funding program, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said Wednesday it "remains to be seen" whether lawmakers will use state tax dollars to help deal with the reduction.

Gardiner addressed the issue, involving a program known as the Low Income Pool, while speaking to reporters and editors from across the state who gathered at the Capitol for an annual Associated Press event.

The federal government in June reduced funding for the program from more than $2 billion last year to $1 billion during the current fiscal year. That number is expected to go down to $608 million during the 2016-17 fiscal year, which will start July 1.

Lawmakers set aside general revenue to help offset this year's cut in the program, which sends additional money to hospitals that care for large numbers of low-income and uninsured patients. Gardiner said lawmakers will have to decide during the 2016 session whether to put more state money into the program.

The House and Gov. Rick Scott, meanwhile, have signaled they will seek other changes in the health-care system, such as the possibility of eliminating "certificates of need" in the hospital industry.

Through the certificate-of need process, the state regulates hospital construction and expansion projects, along with the addition of new programs.

Speaking after Gardiner, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said the House is focused on a "free market" approach to health care that would involve more innovation and choice for patients. Crisafulli made clear that the House will continue to adamantly oppose a proposal that would use federal Medicaid money to expand health coverage.