A storm brews in the Florida House.
Facing a massive budget hole — to the tune of billions of dollars — the state Senate last week released its proposed spending plan for the next fiscal year. The $80.4 billion proposal includes healthcare coverage expansion for nearly one million low-income Floridians and funding program for hospitals.
The Senate move helps fill a gap left by the imminent end of the federal Low-Income Pool program, nearly $2.2 billion of additional money to hospitals and other health providers that serve poor and uninsured patients.
LIP is set to sunset June 30 unless the state and federal governments can agree on an extension.
Under this cloud of uncertainty, the House released its budget of nearly $76.2 billion, missing any money to fill the gap.
With a difference of approximately $5 billion between the two, the stage is set for a major fiscal battle in the chambers of the Florida Legislature.
Hence, the latest from Bill Day … the “LIPocalypse.”
In a real apocalypse, there are two types of people: those who prepare –- like the Senate -– and those who fail to see storm clouds coming.
Like the Florida House.
Naples Republican Matt Hudson, who chairs the House Health Care Appropriations, told WUSF Radio that it is “premature” for him to include LIP funds in a preliminary budget. Negotiations with the feds are continuing, after all, but it remains unclear as to what will actually happen before the program expires.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli has seen this dance before.
The House was in a similar position last year, Crisafulli says, when the LIP program was also set to expire. Then, money for the program didn’t make it in either initial House and Senate budget proposals, adding the money only after reaching an agreement for a one-year extension.
Just in case you think Crisafulli, Hudson et al. are on the right side of this impending budget battle, remember one thing. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government shoulders most of the cost of care for low-income and uninsured patients.
However, that deal is available for states that already expanded Medicaid coverage, something the Florida House has stubbornly refused to do.
The Legislature has only one real job – pass a budget – with only 30 days now to do so.
And the LIPocalypse approaches …