Every legislative session, unique public policy challenges and issues arise that the Legislature is tasked with resolving. Matters that directly involve the federal government have a tendency to be more difficult to tackle as they typically address large bureaucratic programs. This year, the Legislature is confronted with finding a solution to the healthcare challenges facing Florida.
Several of Florida’s healthcare programs are partnerships between the federal and state governments. One of the most critical funding programs is the Low Income Pool program, which provides funds to support Florida hospitals serving high numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients. Last year, the federal government informed the state that it would no longer renew this program in its current form — putting Florida on notice to create a new LIP model.
Not resolving this issue will result in a significant negative economic impact to the state of Florida. If Florida lost LIP funding, in a period of five years, we would lose $6.46 billion from the federal government, 20,000 jobs, $612 million in state revenue, and $11 billion in disposable personal income.
The outcome of these losses is an economic impact all Floridians will feel. It will affect healthcare services, prices and several of the hospitals around the state could be forced to close. Industry leaders and those who provide specialized services in the healthcare field will leave our state, forced to find employment elsewhere. We cannot afford to let this happen to Florida.
In an effort to resolve this matter, the Florida Senate has taken the lead and established the Senate Plan for Medicaid Sustainability. This plan includes an alternative LIP model to distribute funds more broadly to benefit more Florida hospitals and is more likely to be accepted by the federal government. The Senate Plan also creates the Florida Health Insurance Exchange (FHIX) Program, which is a free-market, consumer driven-approach to providing access to health care for low-income Floridians. This week, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration transmitted the Senate’s LIP Plan to the federal government.
The Senate Plan to redesign LIP and create the FHIX program is innovative. It extends healthcare coverage to more than 800,000 low-income Floridians who currently make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance or to qualify for subsidies on the federal exchange. Our plan provides health insurance for less than $25 a month and includes work and education requirements — what we like to call “skin in the game” provisions. If accepted, our plan will draw down hundreds of millions of dollars for a total of $2.2 billion in federal, state and local funds to support Florida hospitals that provide essential services to Medicaid and uninsured patients and $2.8 billion to help low-income Floridians purchase private insurance.
The Senate has worked diligently to craft a healthcare solution that answers Washington’s concerns while remaining fiscally responsible. The Senate Plan is a self-funding program that will generate enough money to pay the state’s portion for implementing the program and, according to our chief economist, may result in a savings of $1.25 billion over five years.
Finding a solution for Florida’s healthcare challenges cannot be ignored any longer and it is time for us to act. Our state simply cannot afford the consequences of leaving this issue unresolved, especially when a viable solution is on the table.