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Despite bluster, Rick Scott administration moves ahead with hospital plan

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Gov. Rick Scott’s administration is taking steps to try to win federal approval of a plan to draw down federal health funds after being criticized for not doing enough to ensure supplemental hospital funding will flow to the state.

The Agency for Health Care Administration has scheduled three, two-hour meetings in Orlando, Miami and Tallahassee on April 29, April 30 and May 1, respectively, to take public testimony on an amendment to its sweeping Medicaid 1115 waiver. The amendment is necessary to keep intact a supplemental Medicaid funding program for Florida’s hospitals known as the Low Income Pool. The waiver initially was negotiated by former Gov. Jeb Bush and allows the state to operate the mandatory Medicaid managed-care program.

The health care agency announced the meetings on Monday. It also announced on Monday that it officially submitted the waiver request to the federal government.

When approving Medicaid waivers and amendments to waivers the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services examines the public input into the waiver request. To that end the agency also will be taking public comment on the waiver request.

The Florida Senate has accused Gov. Rick Scott and the Agency for Health Care Administration has not done enough to secure the supplemental Medicaid funding beyond this summer.

The impending loss of the $2.1 billion and what the state should do to lessen the blow has brought the 2015 session to a standstill. The Florida Senate has proposed a two-step plan: to expand Medicaid expansion to working Floridians as well as create an alternative formula on how the $2.1 billion in funds should be delivered to the hospitals.

The House, however, has advocated eliminating the Low Income Pool from statutes and does not support a Medicaid expansion.

Negotiations between the state and federal government have soured over the past three weeks and the federal government sent a letter to Florida last week advising the state that Medicaid expansion and insurance was a better use of state federal dollars than uncompensated care pools like Low Income Pool.

The correspondence triggered a letter writing campaign that led to Scott’s announcement that he would sue the federal government for trying to coerce Florida into a Medicaid expansion. Scott also appeared on Fox News and accused the Obama Administration of acting like The Sopranos.

LIP is a $2.1 billion program — mostly local and federal dollars–that are used to pay hospitals and federally qualified health centers treating the uninsured. The money also is used to help train physicians.

Florida Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a four-hour meeting on Low Income Pool and how it could be funded. Senate President Andy Gardiner announced the meeting in a memo on Friday to senators and noted that public testimony will be taken at the meeting

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