Senate President Andy Gardiner on Monday told the press that the priority for the special session was to pass a budget and that health care — a driving factor behind the divisive 2015 regular session — would be an issue Florida will have to continue to work on “long after” he leaves the Legislature.
“I just think the healthcare debate will last long after I’m gone,” Gardiner said. “I just think this is kind of the future. Whether you like Obamacare or not, it has changed the dynamics on how health care is going to be delivered in this country. Whether you like it or not.”
Gardiner addressed the press briefly after the Senate met to introduce the bills that would be discussed during the 2015A special session, including the Senate’s budget — which contains $2 billion in Medicaid expansion and $2 billion in Low Income Pool dollars– as well as the substantive FHIX legislation, or the plan to use federal Medicaid dollars under Obamacare to expand coverage.
Gardiner said the Senate was committed to getting a “responsible budget done.”
When asked, he said he thinks the votes are there in the House to pass the Senate’s proposed FHIX plan and that he remains hopeful. He said he believes now is the time for the state to send a message to the federal government that, “if you want to expand coverage in Florida this is about as far as we can go.”
Meanwhile, Gardner said the budget process will evolve as they normally do, with different conferees being named to hammer out the differences in the various spending areas.
“We will follow the exact same process we normally would. It’s just been delayed by 45 days.”
Gardiner also downplayed House Speaker Steve Crisafulli‘s remarks that the $600 million offer made for the Senate is off the table. Gardiner said the offer required the Senate to act quickly and walk away from Low Income Pool dollars and federal expansion dollars. He noted that the House offer required the Senate to act quickly and that it never was accompanied by spreadsheets showing where the money came from.
“We’re moving on,” Gardiner said, shrugging it off.
When asked about the House’s offer to use $200 million in general revenue to increase healthcare funding, though, Gardiner said the Senate was running figures through Low Income Pool models to see what is needed to make sure hospitals aren’t negatively impacted.
While the Senate wants to see healthcare access expanded, the House wants to look at increasing competition in the healthcare delivery market. There also are a number of other bills that the House sought that leadership believes will do just that, such as the repeal of certificate of need for new hospitals and expansion of nurses scope of practice and authorizing recovery care centers.
Gardiner said the Senate has not asked the House to take the FHIX plan up on the House floor nor has the Senate committed to bringing the House bills up on the Senate floor.
“At the end of the day those may be some cost efficiencies but if you don’t have insurance, you can’t get in and have access to those efficiencies,” Gardiner said, of the House bills. “I think long-term, and from the Senate’s standpoint, we’re going to be looking at the insurance side for a long time.”