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Senate Prez Andy Gardiner says it’s time to find ‘common ground’ on health care

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Senate President Andy Gardiner issued a plea to the House late Wednesday night after hearing news that the federal government has stopped negotiating with the state over the future of a $2 billion program called Low Income Pool.

“The time has come to find common ground and present a unified solution that is best for Floridians,” Gardiner said in a release. “We hope others will join us at the table to discuss a way forward.”

But it appears he may be sitting at the table alone.

When asked whether common ground can be reached on health care, Speaker Steve Crisafulli responded with an email that focused exclusively on the Low Income Pool.

“We agree the federal government should fulfill their obligation to Florida to fund the Low Income Pool and look forward to working together with the Governor and the Senate to complete the work our constituents sent us here to do.”

The call for an accord capped off a day in Tallahassee where Low Income Pool seemed to dominate discussions. Once an arcane financing term known only by hospital and healthcare lobbyists LIP has become the buzzword around the Capitol.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson visited Tallahassee to talk with Gardiner and Crisafulli. Nelson told the media he made clear to both leaders that the federal government would not sign off on a LIP extension if the state did not move ahead with a Medicaid expansion. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz also made an appearance in Tallahassee, where she praised the Senate for a bipartisan healthcare plan but warned them that LIP was in jeopardy if Florida didn’t move ahead on Medicaid expansion.

Then late in the day Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek issued a release saying the federal government has temporarily suspended LIP discussions with Florida. The two-week halt in negotiations will make it difficult for the Legislature to adjourn on time because the state won’t have a resolution on how much money — if any — will be available in supplemental Medicaid dollars to help fund hospitals, federally qualified health centers, graduate medical education and HMOs.

“At this time, the Senate believes it has done everything possible to advance solutions to the healthcare challenges facing Florida. The time has come to find common ground and present a unified solution that is best for Floridians. We hope others will join us at the table to discuss a way forward.”

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