Sen. Negron backing off hospital plan in favor of straight rate cut

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Senate health-budget chairman Joe Negron said Thursday night he likely will scrap a controversial Medicaid hospital-funding plan, pointing to opposition from hospitals that feared major cuts, reports Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.

“I’m inclined to back off that issue and just do a standard rate reduction,” Negron, R-Stuart, said after the Senate approved its 2012-13 budget plan and set the stage for upcoming negotiations with the House.

The House budget plan calls for a 7 percent cut in Medicaid hospital rates, as lawmakers struggle to close an overall budget shortfall. Negron tried to avoid a straight rate cut by proposing a complicated plan that called for cutting $218.7 million in general revenue that he said subsidizes Medicaid HMO payments to hospitals.

In offering the proposal, Negron held out the possibility that at least part of the money could be made up by tax dollars that some local taxing districts or counties contribute to health care. Such local dollars typically are used to draw down federal matching money.

Hospital-industry officials feared that the net effect of the changes would lead to cuts that would be deeper than the House rate reduction.

Negron, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, said he was not sure how much of a rate cut would be needed because of the change, but he said he would like to keep it as small as possible.

A key will be the amount of money that House and Senate leaders set aside for health and human services programs during budget negotiations.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.