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Senate Prez Andy Gardiner sends memo to members: ‘We have the obligation to make coverage affordable …’

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Senate President Andy Gardiner, who kicked off the session by saying the state needed to have a “discussion” about Medicaid expansion, explained in a memo to senators why he was pushing ahead with a bill that would extend coverage to 800,000 Floridians.

The memo was accompanied with a detailed breakdown of the lengthy bill that will be considered next week by the Florida Senate. See story here.

“Some say Florida should not expand the existing Medicaid program and I agree,” Gardiner writes in the memo. “But we have the obligation to make coverage affordable and the opportunity to develop a consumer-driven approach —one that provides access to high-quality, affordable health-care coverage while promoting personal responsibility.

“We should develop options that uniquely suit the needs of Floridians. We should examine the opportunity for expansion and determine the best way to put in place conservative, free-market guardrails that will control the cost and growth of the Medicaid program for Florida’s taxpayers.”

Gardiner’s memo came the same day that Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Tom Lee cautioned that spending priorities of the governor and others could be in trouble because of the “lack of clarity” over health-care issues. Lee was referencing the federal government’s announcement that it was not going to extend, as is, the Low Income Pool, or a $2 billion pot of Medicaid funding comprised mostly of federal and local dollars. LIP is spent mostly on hospitals that treat the poor and uninsured but also is spent on federally qualified health centers as well as physician training programs.

The federal government advised the state April 2014 it would not extend LIP beyond June 30, 2015. However, Scott included the $2 billion in his budget for the 2015-16 year. The governor sent a letter to President Obama earlier this week saying he would not backfill with general revenue or state dollars any deficit caused by the termination of LIP. See related story.

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