Senate Sets Health Expansion Bill Schedule

May 26, 2015

The Senate will move quickly during a special legislative session next month to reiterate support for a controversial plan that would use federal Medicaid money to provide health insurance to about 800,000 Floridians.

Credit The Florida Senate

Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, sent a memo Friday to senators that said the Senate Health Policy Committee will take up the coverage-expansion plan June 1, the first day of the special session. The following day, the plan will go the Appropriations Committee, and it will be approved by the full Senate on June 3.

House Republican leaders and Gov. Rick Scott have adamantly opposed the Senate coverage plan, and the dispute helped prevent lawmakers from agreeing on a budget during this spring's regular session. The House will hold a workshop during the opening day of the special session on the Senate plan.

In the memo, Gardiner also pointed to an expected reduction in funding for the Low Income Pool program, which sends money to hospitals and other health-care providers that serve large numbers of uninsured patients.

A top federal official said in a letter Thursday that Florida likely will receive about $1 billion next year for the program, down from $2.16 billion during the current year.

Gardiner wrote in the memo that the expected cut "will have a ripple effect throughout our entire budget, providing a renewed and elevated importance to the discussion of a Florida solution to coverage for the uninsured as we head into special session."

Gardiner said formal budget negotiations with the House are expected to start toward the end of the first week of the special session, which could last until June 20.