Congressional Hearing Planned On LIP Showdown

May 13, 2015

Credit Politico

A congressional committee will hold a hearing on Gov. Rick Scott's showdown with the federal government over health care funding, but that meeting could come too late to help close a potential $2.2 billion hole in the state budget.

Scott announced Tuesday that U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., will have the House Energy & Commerce Committee look into the governor's allegations that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is trying to illegally coerce the state into accepting Medicaid expansion.

The agency has said that Medicaid expansion will be a factor as it weighs a proposed revision to the Low Income Pool, or LIP, program, but has not explicitly said that the state must expand coverage to receive any funding. The $2.2 billion LIP program, which mostly sends money to hospitals and other medical providers that care for large numbers of low-income patients, is set to expire June 30 unless state and federal officials reach an agreement.

"The committee's hearing will bring much-needed attention to the Obama administration's disappointing political power play at the expense of the health care of low-income families in our state," Scott said in a statement issued by his office.

The governor has filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration to attempt to block federal officials from factoring whether the state has expanded Medicaid into its decision on LIP. But federal officials say that they don't want LIP to pay for the medical expenses of Floridians who could otherwise be covered by Medicaid.

The agency said last week that, at first blush, the state's new LIP application "falls short of key principles" that federal officials will consider when weighing the program's future, but a spokesman said Tuesday the agency "is continuing to engage" with the state.

A spokeswoman for Upton's committee confirmed in an email that a hearing was being planned, but didn't indicate whether it would come before June 30, the deadline for the Legislature and Scott to agree to a budget before state government could shut down.

"The committee, in its continued commitment to protect the Medicaid program so it is able to deliver on its core function of providing a lifeline for the most vulnerable, is keeping a close eye on the situation in Florida," the spokeswoman said. "Chairman Upton spoke with Governor Scott today and the committee plans to hold a hearing in the coming months."

Scott spent Tuesday in Washington, D.C., meeting with 14 members of the state's congressional delegation as well as Upton and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Funding for LIP is part of a complex health care logjam that has left legislative leaders unable to reach agreement on a spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1. Hoping to encourage federal officials to approve the state's LIP proposal, the state Senate offered a $2.8 billion initiative that would use Medicaid expansion funding to help low-income Floridians purchase private insurance.

But Scott and the state House adamantly oppose the expansion alternative, which would be funded through the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.