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Florida Could Lose $2.2B in Hospital Funding

PHOTO: Jackson Memorial in Miami, Florida’s largest public hospital system, stands to lose $237 million if the federal government cuts off so-called “LIP” funding. IMAGE CREDIT:  Flickr Creative Commons/Phillip Pessar
PHOTO: Jackson Memorial in Miami, Florida’s largest public hospital system, stands to lose $237 million if the federal government cuts off so-called “LIP” funding. IMAGE CREDIT: Flickr Creative Commons/Phillip Pessar
February 16, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has told Florida it will cease funding for poor and uninsured hospital patients at the end of June.

It's a move that could cost the state $2.2 billion. Bruce Rueben is president of the Florida Association of Hospitals. He says the impact of the potential cuts would be a nightmare for the state's health care facilities.

"Any hospital that has a significant number of patients that are either covered by Medicaid or who are uninsured are going to be deeply concerned about the potential loss of this funding," Rueben says.

The state's largest public hospitals could lose $1.3 billion if "Low-Income Pool" or LIP funding isn't renewed. It also could punch a huge hole in the state budget, instantly turning a planned surplus for the next fiscal year into a deficit.

Rueben says the federal government has been telling the state for some time to rework its system in order to renew the funds.

"We now all understand that they're serious about the state developing new approaches to the way it funds Medicaid and the way the funds are distributed," says Rueben.

While the state Legislature is looking into ways to plug the hole, some Democrats are blaming the state's ruling Republicans for the crisis by refusing to expand Medicaid. But Rueben says Medicaid patients aren't the only ones in the coverage gap.

"When you have extended coverage in the state you'll be able to cover probably over a million people over time," says Rueben. "The low-income pool is a whole different program. There will still be a high number of Floridians who have no insurance."

Florida Governor Rick Scott already has included the LIP funding in the state's $77 billion budget for 2016. His budget chief Cynthia Kelly says they're hopeful a new agreement can be worked out with the federal government before funds are cut off in July.

Phil Latzman/Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - FL