Scott's Budget Includes Iffy Fed Money

Jan 30, 2015

Despite uncertainty about whether the federal government will agree to continue the program, Gov. Rick Scott's proposed 2015-16 budget includes funding for a program that many hospitals say is crucial to caring for poor and uninsured patients.

Gov. Rick Scott
Credit Florida Office of the Governor / Florida Office of the Governor

The "Low Income Pool" program, known as the LIP program, is scheduled to expire June 30, unless the federal government approves an extension. The joint state and federal program has provided about $1 billion a year to hospitals and other providers that care for large numbers of low-income and uninsured patients, though the number jumped to more than $2 billion this year because other program funding was shifted into it.

As lawmakers get ready this spring to negotiate a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, the future of the LIP program remains a major question. The Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, which represents public hospitals, teaching hospitals and children's hospitals, issued a statement Thursday commending Scott for building LIP money into his proposed budget.

"With Governor Scott leading negotiations with the federal government, we are confident this $2 billion safety-net program will be protected and the governor will advocate for enhancements to the program that are more in parity with what other large states receive today,'' Tony Carvalho, the group's president, said in the statement.

Leading Lawmakers Behind New Telemedicine Effort

A bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders will hold a news conference next week to discuss efforts to pass legislation aimed at bolstering the use of telemedicine.

The House and Senate could not agree on a telemedicine bill last year. But the news conference Tuesday is expected to include Senate Health Policy Chairman Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach; Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa; House Health & Human Services Chairman Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford; Rep. Mia Jones, a Jacksonville Democrat who is her party's ranking member on the Health & Human Services Committee; and Rep. Travis Cummings, an Orange Park Republican who is vice-chairman of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.

A release announcing the news conference said the lawmakers will "address the need to statutorily define telemedicine and create standards for practice in Florida."

Bean and Joyner have already filed one bill (SB 478) about telemedicine, which involves medical providers using the Internet and other technology to treat patients remotely.