The Obama administration rebuffed Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal to extend federal funds for hospitals that treat the uninsured, increasing the pressure on states that have refused to expand coverage for low-income people under the president’s health care law.
The decision means Florida’s already acrimonious state budget process will likely become tenser. The standoff also has implications for eight other states, including Texas, which draw billions of dollars from the same pool of hospital funds. And like Florida, several are also refusing to expand Medicaid coverage. Republican leaders in those states are adamant about not expecting any federal money tied to Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Florida’s funding is the first to expire on June 30 and Scott has filed a lawsuit, with support from Texas and Kansas, alleging the federal government is breaking the law by coercing states to expand Medicaid in order to get the hospital funds. The hospital funds are an optional program, not entitlement programs like Medicaid, meaning the federal government has broad discretion whether to grant them, experts say.
The snub from the Obama administration came Wednesday when Scott met with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell in Washington. The Republican governor wants the administration to extend $1 billion in low-income pool funds for hospitals, but the federal government wants Florida to expand Medicaid, arguing its more efficient to give people insurance than to pay hospitals for caring for the uninsured retroactively.
Neither side has budged. The gridlock stalled Florida’s legislative session, prompting the House to abruptly adjourn three days early last week. Scott and lawmakers had asked the Obama administration to bypass a roughly two-month-long required public comment and review period and give a preliminary answer on the funds so lawmakers could agree on a budget when they convene for a special session in June. Burwell declined.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.