Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Hospitals at Center of Budget Stalemate

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Hospitals at Center of Budget Stalemate

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE

Florida hospitals are in the middle of the epic budget stalemate that could force lawmakers into an overtime session that could last well into June.

And they still do not have the answer to a $2.2 billion question.

That question hinges on a federal program known as the low- income pool (LIP) that provides $2.2 billion to Florida hospitals and other health care providers to offset their costs for uncompensated patient care.

The state submitted a formal request to extend the program on Monday. But federal officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services may not have a formal answer on that LIP request before the new state budget year begins on July 1.

The Senate has advanced the Florida Health Insurance Exchange (FHIX) plan, a form of Medicaid expansion that would extend private health coverage to 800,000 low-income Floridians, as way to offset the possible loss of all or part of the LIP money.

But the FHIX plan is strongly opposed by the House and governor, who do not favor any form of Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act. And that is the crux of the standoff between the House and Senate.

This week both the House and Scott, a former CEO of the Columbia/ HCA hospital chain, raised new questions about hospital financing.

Scott called individual senators into his office to remind them of his veto power and to show them a six-page spread sheet highlighting Florida hospitals taking in $43 billion in revenue and having an operating margin in the range of 6.77 percent.

House Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, was equally blunt in turning up the heat on the hospitals.

"The entire fight is about paying hospitals more money. It has nothing to do with coverage or health care outcomes for the poor," Corcoran tweeted on Wednesday.

Scott also said if lawmakers can't reach a budget deal -- which is now a certainty -- by the May 1 deadline of their current session he may create a health care commission "to examine the revenues of Florida hospitals, insurance and healthcare providers and how any taxpayer money contributes to the profits or losses of these institutions in Florida. …

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