As final budget talks near, Scott administration meets with feds over $1b holding up health care budget

Matt Dixon, (@Mdixon55)

With the clock ticking on this year’s legislative session, top officials from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration met Tuesday with federal regulators in Baltimore to discuss a $1 billion pot of money holding lawmaker’s proposed health care budget hostage.

In 2005, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved a waiver allowing Florida to implement a “Low Income Pool.” That money can be used for things like uncompensated care, care for those without insurance and Medicaid services.

The current waiver, which has a $1 billion cap in place, is set to expire June 30. Officials with the Agency for Health Care Administration, which Scott oversees, were initially seeking $4.5 billion for LIP and related programs designed to supplement hospital payments. That’s roughly $1.2 billion over current levels.

After it became clear that additional federal officials would not green-light the increase, AHCA turned its focus to consolidating the handful of programs related to LIP into one roughly $3.3 billion fund.  If CMS does not approve that plan, another option is to sign-off on a one-year extension at the current $1 billion cap.

The issue has forced heartburn for health-care budget writers because it’s unclear what direction is going to come down from federal officials.

“We have not received any final approval from federal CMS as to how this program will be implemented or what funding levels will be approved, or if it will be renewed,” state Sen. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, who chairs the House Health Care Appropriations Committee.

His comments came while rolling out the House’s proposed health care budget during a March 18 meeting. During that meeting, Hudson said that he hopes the issue is resolved by the end of “this (legislative) session.”

With lawmaker’s final budget negotiations set to start later this month, the clock is ticking. A trio of state officials traveled to a Baltimore CMS facility to try and hasten the negotiations with federal officials.

The state officials at the meeting were  Geoffrey Becker, deputy chief of staff in Scott’s office; Justin Senior, deputy secretary for Medicaid; and Tom Wallace, bureau chief, Medicaid program finance, according to AHCA spokeswoman Shelisha Coleman.

She said federal attendees were Penny Thompson, deputy director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP services; Cindy Mann, director for Medicaid and CHIP Services; Eliot Fishman, director of Children and Adults Health Programs Group; and Kristin Fan, deputy director, financial management group.

Leave a Reply