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House and Senate agree to pay more for lawyers to defend Medicaid lawsuits

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The House and Senate are $5 billion apart on Medicaid spending but they appear poised to give an additional $2.6 million to the state Agency for Health Care Administration to hire more attorneys.

Both the House and Senate budgets contain $2.73 million to hire outside legal counsel in lawsuits. It was exactly what the agency requested. Budget documents show AHCA requested the money to cover an increase in expenses associated with the pediatric and dental lawsuit challenging Medicaid reimbursement rates as well as administrative challenges.

The lawsuit was one in a list of 14 lawsuits AHCA included in its “litigation inventory” it submitted along with the budget.

Longtime consumer advocate and director of the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy Karen Woodall was surprised that the issue was agreed to so early, then added “they could use that money to increase reimbursement rates and they wouldn’t have the lawsuits.”

In addition to funding to fight the pediatric lawsuit the Senate budget also includes $3 million for the pediatric fee increases. The House budget does not include funding to address the litigation. A federal judge in January ruled that the Medicaid rates were set at a low level, causing pediatricians and dentists to stop participating.

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee released its proposed spending plan on Thursday. The budget contains money for a Medicaid expansion program being pushed in the Senate as well as supplemental Medicaid dollars  called Low Income Pool. The LIP money is used to fund hospitals, HMOs, federally qualified health centers and graduate medical education.

Florida is trying to negotiate an agreement with the federal government to keep $2.1 billion in federal LIP dollars flowing. The House budget doesn’t include LIP money but does assume the state will continue to receive local tax dollars that currently are used to help pay for LIP.

Health Care Admin Paper

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