Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayor Not Sure of Cost to City for Medicaid; Back Payments Could Cost $9.5 Million More

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayor Not Sure of Cost to City for Medicaid; Back Payments Could Cost $9.5 Million More

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Dixon

TALLAHASSEE | A controversial new law that could cost local governments $325 million in disputed Medicaid payments has Jacksonville City Hall scrambling to determine exactly how big a hit city taxpayers could face.

A bill signed by Gov. Rick Scott last week included a provision requiring local governments to make what the state calls "unpaid" Medicaid payments. Local governments, who lobbied hard against the provision, said the reason they haven't made the payments is because they are actually errors that resulted from what they call a flawed electronic billing system the state adopted in 2008.

The issue may soon head to the courts. The Florida Association of Counties said Tuesday it is strongly considering suing the state. The group led the lobbying push against the provision during this year's Legislature.

The city currently makes $9.6 million in annual Medicaid payments. The system is funded by federal, state, and local money.

Mayor Alvin Brown says asking Jacksonville to make back payments could cost the city an additional $9.5 million over the next three years, but his office is still gauging the total number.

"Jacksonville is committed to paying its Medicaid obligations," Brown said. "We just need to know exactly what the number is."

The provision was part of a much larger health care bill (HB 5301) which in turn was folded into the state's budget, which made it difficult for lawmakers to oppose the individual provision.

"Part of the frustration with legislation is they get to become trains," said state Rep. Mike Weinstein, R-Jacksonville. "You have to weigh the good versus the bad."

The bill did not receive a final vote until the last day of the legislative session. By that time, removing the individual provision could have derailed the state's $70 billion budget, Weinstein said. …

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