Budget chief state Sen. Tom Lee said on Wednesday that tax cuts and member projects will be put on hold in the Senate until there is some resolution of whether Florida will receive additional Medicaid supplemental dollars to help pay hospitals, federally qualified health centers and Medicaid HMOs.
After a marathon seven-plus-hour meeting where the committee tackled everything from Medicaid expansion, to land-buying, to education reforms, Lee said in a press availability with reporters that the $800 million in tax reductions his chamber has teed up will be delayed until Florida hears from the federal government whether $2 billion in Low Income Pool dollars will be approved.
“If we spend that money and we have a big problem in healthcare that doesn’t break our way, we won’t have the resources to plug the hole. So we have to take things in some chronology, we have to have some priorities, and healthcare right now here in the Senate is at least a priority higher than tax cuts.”
Though they are “marketing the tax cuts better,” Lee opined that the House is “certainly not in any different posture than we are.”
The Senate budget not only contains LIP dollars it also contains $2.8 billion in funding for Medicaid expansion. The overall Senate budget is $80.4 billion while the House budget, which also was approved on Wednesday, is $76.2 billion.
The Senate is hopeful that the federal government will approve the modified Low Income Pool formula that the Senate unveiled last week. Deputy Secretary for Medicaid Justin Senior said that he is hopeful to have a commitment secured from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services by mid-April so the Legislature can know how much money to expect and craft budgets accordingly.
Senior said he is asking the federal government to approve a modified LIP formula for two years and wants $2 billion each year, or a total of $4 billion.
Senior isn’t the only one lobbying, though.
Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera was in Washington three days last week meeting with U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio as well as U.S. Reps. Carlos Cubelo, Ron Desantis and Mario Diaz-Balart.
Lopez-Cantera has ties to Jackson Memorial, which will be hardest hit if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services does not approve the modified LIP plan the Senate has proposed. Lopez-Cantera’s father is the past chairman of the Jackson Health Foundation, a nonprofit organization and private fundraising arm of Jackson Health System.