Counties will be forced to pay tens of millions in Medicaid charges

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Lawmakers approved a controversial proposal Friday that would require counties to pay tens of millions of dollars in disputed Medicaid charges, reports the News Service of Florida.

The state contends that counties in recent years have made only about 60 percent of required payments. But counties contend that a state billing system is riddled with problems and inaccuracies.

HB 5301 includes a five-year plan for the state to recoup money from counties. The Florida Association of Counties said the plan would require about $70.5 million in extra payments during the 2012-13 fiscal year.

The House on Friday voted 73-36 to approve the bill. The Senate followed with a 23-17 vote, sending the bill to Gov. Rick Scott.

Opponents said they were worried about how counties — particularly rural counties — could afford to pay the money. “Give me some relief,” said Sen. Mike Bennett, a Bradenton Republican who said he was concerned about the impact on rural DeSoto County.

Budget Chairman JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, acknowledged concerns but said he thinks it is clear counties owe money. “We’ve got to get back to getting the bills appropriately paid,” Alexander said. HB 5301 also would make children of state employees eligible for the KidCare program, which offers subsidized health insurance to low- and moderate-income families.

Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich, a Weston Democrat who has long sought the KidCare change, said that convinced her to vote for the bill. She described the choice as “painful” because of how the bill would affect counties.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.