Medicaid Archives - Florida Politics

Lawmakers seek more money for opioid epidemic

Two Democratic senators are pushing to increase by $25 million the amount of funding the Senate has committed to addressing the state’s opioid problems in the upcoming year.

Sen. Kevin Rader praised Senate leaders for proposing to spend $100 million on mental-health services and school-safety programs in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last week that left 17 people dead. But he said they also need to put more money into a plan to curb the opioid epidemic.

“It looks like we are finding a lot of mental health funding, and that’s great. And I absolutely, completely support it and it’s much needed,” said Rader, a Delray Beach Democrat whose district includes Parkland, where Marjory Stoneman Douglas High is located. “I hope in the next two weeks …. we can really put the money into the opioid funding to take an enormous bite out of this apple and really help Floridians who need it.”

Rader’s remarks came as the Legislature enters the last two weeks of the annual Legislative Session and prepares to go into budget negotiations. The Senate is earmarking about $53 million for a variety of programs for opioid treatment, outpatient care and case management, medically assisted treatment, and naloxone for emergency responders.

Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican, said Thursday he has spent “a long time talking” with Rader and Sen. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat, about the opioid epidemic, and he thinks the Legislature ultimately will increase funding from the current levels.

Rader is working closely with Rouson, who has drafted a plan that directs funding to a number of different areas. They include spending $2 million on an additional seven “bridge programs” between hospital emergency departments and community-based opioid programs, spending $2.9 million for evidence-based prevention and launching a statewide media campaign, similar to the state’s effective anti-smoking campaign.

The four-page draft obtained by The News Service of Florida contains handwritten notes with numbers by each of the ideas. The proposal marked No 1 is a request to increase funding to managing entities, which have contracts with the state to coordinate care regionally, by $3.1 million to provide housing options for people who suffer from both mental health and addiction issues and are frequently jailed or require emergency room services.

The proposal does not include additional funding beyond what already is targeted for medication-assisted treatment programs. Negron though, indicated that he would direct additional dollars toward medication-assisted treatment.

“I want to make sure the prevention is directly related to tangible items that we can measure rather than just diffuse dissemination of information, which I don’t think is effective,” Negron said.

Gov. Rick Scott in May 2017 declared a state of emergency due to the opioid crisis, fueled by an increasing number of deaths associated with the drugs. A state report shows that in 2016, Florida had 952 heroin deaths, 1,390 fentanyl-related deaths, 723 oxycodone-caused deaths and 245 hydrocodone-related deaths.

To try to address the issues, the House and Senate are considering bills (HB 21 and SB 8) that would limit physicians’ abilities to prescribe opioids. Also, the state Medicaid program announced last week that it is limiting prescriptions for narcotics to a maximum seven-day supply, unless a physician determines it is medically necessary to increase the prescription.

During a discussion in a Senate committee, Rader reminded Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Chairwoman Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, that she acknowledged earlier the Senate hasn’t gone far enough in its recommendations for the upcoming year.

“You said, and I didn’t put words in your mouth, that this is ‘woefully underfunded and needed hundreds of millions of dollars of help as well,’ “ Rader said to Flores during a Wednesday meeting. “We just can’t keep the eye off the ball.”

Chris King releases post-Parkland proposal to address mental illness, ban guns

Declaring that Republican leadership in Tallahassee has “transformed Florida into a petri dish of experimentation for the NRA” and “utterly failed to address public health and mental health care,” Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King said Friday he would fight the gun lobby, veto their bills, and seek to expand coverage and ban assault weapons.

The pledges are not new to King or to Democrats in general, though King, a Winter Park businessman, offered them as his call to action following the horrific mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday. He also urged support for House Bill 219 and Senate Bill 196, two bills to ban assault weapons, sponsored by state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and state Sen. Linda Stewart, both Orlando Democrats.

“The next governor must have the courage to stand up and say that we will not allow weapons designed for the killing fields to be sold in our state,” King said in a statement that also was included in a video message posted to his campaign’s Facebook page.

Specifically, King vowed that he would oppose and veto bills he said make Florida “less safe,” such as a provision to Senate Bill  740 that would expand concealed weapons permits availability; expand mental health coverage availability by expanding Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act in Florida; and push to ban assault weapons.

“The shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School chose an AR-15 semi-automatic assault weapon. These types of weapons have been used again and again in mass shootings across the country: Aurora, Newtown, San Bernardino, Orlando, Sutherland Springs, Las Vegas, and now Parkland,” King said “These shootings should be reason enough that weapons designed for war should not be in our neighborhoods. One individual with a weapon like this can do unspeakable damage in a matter of seconds and no cavalry of well-armed law enforcement or good samaritans can move quickly enough to stop it.”

King, who attended Thursday’s vigil in Parkland, specifically criticized Republican gubernatorial candidate and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for supporting the concealed weapons provision in SB 740, and indirectly criticized him by declaring that “Florida’s leaders call themselves ‘proud NRA sellouts.'”

“We have seen how effective the NRA and the gun lobby are in moments like these,” King said. “The gun lobby muddies the waters and delays any discussion on guns until the news vans and camera crews have gone home and most Americans have moved on. But we are stronger. We owe it to the victims and to our children to draw a line in the sand. We can’t just talk about guns, we must put our best ideas forward. We must not stop until we achieve change that will make us all safer. This is how we honor the victims of such unspeakable tragedies — with action.”

Props to Senate for ending enhanced payments to hand-picked hospitals

For the last couple of years, budget talks have seemed to put House leadership in the driver’s seat on instituting new reforms, with the Senate reacting defensively. So it was a breath of fresh air to see the two chambers heading in the same direction, toward positive change on funding for charity care provided by hospitals across Florida.

The two sides aren’t taking identical approaches to the budget question of how government reimburses hospitals for providing essential services to the poor, such as Medicaid and charity care. But they’re also not lined up facing each other, with guns raised awaiting the order to fire. With a pot of almost $400 million at stake — not exactly nickels and dimes — any progress toward finding common ground is something to celebrate.

It had looked like the House was planning to continue the practice of providing “enhanced payments” to a few hand-picked hospitals, while the Senate’s plan makes that money available to all Florida hospitals. But in the last few days, there has been some movement in the House toward the more balanced approach of divvying up the funds based on the amount of Medicaid and charity care the hospitals actually provide, adding objectivity and accountability to the process.

This totally makes sense — if you provide the service, you get reimbursed accordingly.

The status quo model of subjectively selecting hospitals for huge boosts in state funding — the so-called “enhanced payments” — has excluded hundreds of hospitals that provide the same essential services to low-income patients.

That system may have once helped to support struggling charitable hospitals, but that’s not the reality anymore. The most likely recipients — designated as nonprofits, mind you — made a combined $1.4 billion in profits in 2016. They also receive more than $1 billion in unrestricted state and local tax revenue and federal subsidies. These hospital systems are run like for-profit corporate behemoths, but then they cry poor in order to collect taxpayer dollars.

While the formal House plan doesn’t currently include this shift from enhanced payments to a more broad-based approach, I am hopeful after reading that Rep. Jason Brodeur (a Sanford Republican), chair of the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, says he is open to the change and likes the idea of having the money more closely follow the patients.

Florida provides less Medicaid funding per capita than almost any other state in the nation, so it’s important that we allocate every dollar smartly in order to make the biggest impact statewide.

The Senate plan would send this money to benefit the most low-income patients across the entire state. I trust that the House will make the change in its budget as well.

Medicaid expansion could save state $500M, lawmaker says

A Democratic push to expand affordable health care coverage in Florida has a unique selling point: it could save the state more than $500 million.

At a news conference on Thursday, Rep. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat, said a resolution she’s sponsoring to expand Medicaid coverage would significantly cut costs from other health spending areas supported by the state.

“If Florida were to expand Medicaid, the net — that’s net savings — would be nearly half a billion dollars,” Berman said. “Medicaid expansion would increase funds for mental health and substance abuse, a true crisis in our state.”

Berman’s claim is supported by analysis from the Florida Policy Institute, or FPI. According to FPI, the net savings — calculated through estimated budgetary savings and estimated increases in general revenue — total $501,950,000. The figure was calculated using FY 2016-17 Medicaid spending in Florida as a benchmark.

FPI said enhanced federal matching funds would account for around $364 million in savings. The other savings bulk would come through substituting Medicaid funds for General Revenue spends on mental health and substance abuse, hospital costs for prisoners, and uncompensated care. In those areas, FPI says Medicaid would account for $364.6 million in savings.

Those two savings figures total roughly $747.75 million. According to FPI, subtracting the state’s $250 million cost to expand Medicaid results in the $500 million net savings figure.

Berman’s resolution, HJR 911, has a companion in Miami Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo’s SJR 1136.

The legislation, if passed, would result in a proposed constitutional amendment requiring voter approval in November. Berman and Taddeo are hopeful the Legislature will allow the issue to be decided by voters. Medicaid expansion has been an issue for years in Florida but has failed to progress through the Legislature.

“It is so disappointing to continue to see the Florida Legislature play politics with this issue when all we’re asking for is a basic principle of our democracy: Let the voters decide,” Taddeo said.

The Affordable Care Act first mandated the expansion of Medicaid to all states, but a 2012 case in the U.S. Supreme Court ruled participation optional.

Nineteen states, including Florida, have opted not to expand Medicaid. Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act would provide coverage to families with incomes up to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Line. According to FPI, expanded Medicaid coverage would extend to individuals making $16,643 yearly and families of four making $33,948 yearly.

Marketplace health insurance in Florida currently covers families of four who earn at least $24,600 yearly. According to FPI, that creates a coverage gap for families earning an annual income of $7,380 (the ceiling for Medicaid coverage) and $24,600 (the marketplace floor). FPI estimates there are 500,000 Floridians in that gap.

Taddeo and Berman’s legislation has yet to be heard in committee.

Rick Scott administration again mishandles individuals’ personal information

The private information of nearly 1,000 individuals was mishandled by the state’s Division of Elections as it responded to a public records request last year, making it the second time in four months that a state agency has compromised the private information of Floridians.

State officials said Friday that the last four digits of the social security number of 945 individuals were sent in error to a member of the public.

The department has notified all the individuals whose confidential information was released by mistake.

While officials say there is no reason to believe their private information has been misused, they are offering those affected a year-long membership to an identity theft protection service.

Earlier this month, officials with the Agency of Health Care Administration confirmed that the medical records and personal information of up to 30,000 people enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program may have been compromised after a data breach.

The incident in that agency stemmed from a state employee opening a malicious phishing email. The data breach exposed the Social Security numbers, dates of birth, Medicaid ID numbers and private health care information of clients.

Darren Soto under fire for having urged Puerto Ricans to declare they intend to stay

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando has come under fire for statements he made last Friday at a Puerto Rico town hall meeting in Kissimmee, when he urged evacuees to declare they intend to stay in Florida.

Soto’s comments had come during a question-and-answer period after he, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, and others including Florida Gov. Rick Scott had addressed more than 500 people gathered at the Kissimmee Civic Center about issues surrounding Puerto Rico, evacuees who have fled to Florida following Hurricane Maria, and federal, state, and local assistance and recovery efforts.

Responding to a question about federal assistance, Soto noted inequities and legal quirks in the federal Medicaid and Medicare programs. He noted that when evacuees go home to the island they lose coverage, and that he and others are working on legislation to try to make benefits more seamless as people move back and forth. But that’s not the case yet, he said.

“One thing for those who recently arrived need to know is, you’re going to be asked the question, ‘Do you intend to stay?’ I urge you to say ‘yes, for now,'” Soto told the town hall. “Because otherwise you’re going to get rejected, and then you’re going to find yourself without health care. So I urge you to watch for that pitch-fall question.”

A report on WFTV-News in Orlando and posts on Facebook other social media, raised the question of whether Soto was encouraging people to make false claims about their intentions to stay in Florida or not.

In a written statement provided by his office Wednesday morning, Soto denied he made any such overture.

“I do not encourage anyone who is planning to leave our state to falsely claim otherwise. Many recently arrived Puerto Ricans have a high probability of staying in Florida. The intent of my statement was to encourage them to err on the side of caution and declare their intent to stay if they are in doubt about their future plans,” Soto said. “If they eventually leave, their Medicaid or Medicare will automatically be terminated and they will have to reapply back in Puerto Rico. Healthcare could mean the difference between life and death for eligible seniors, disabled and children evacuees, many of whom have been without healthcare for months.”

One of Soto’s Republican opponents seeking to take him on in the 2018 election, Wayne Liebnitzky of St. Cloud, said he did not think Soto said anything that would raise legal problems, but he questioned the ethics of the statement.

“There is an ethics problem here,” Liebnitzky said. “Is it a big problem? Probably not. It is an ethical problem. He shouldn’t have done it.”

Up to 30,000 state Medicaid clients warned of potential data breach

Thousands of Floridians enrolled in Florida’s Medicaid program are being notified that their medical records and personal information may have been compromised, the state’s Agency of Health Care Administration said.

The data breach occurred after a state employee opened a malicious phishing email last November. The incident may have exposed the  Social Security numbers, dates of birth, Medicaid ID numbers and private health care information of up to 30,000 Floridians, a two-month-review by the Inspector General found.

While the review is ongoing, AHCA has so far been able to confirm that the Medicaid IDs and/or Social Security numbers of approximately 1,800 clients have been potentially accessed.

In response, AHCA officials are offering those affected a free one-year membership to an identity theft protection program, even though they contend there is no reason to believe individuals’ information has been misused.

No other state systems or email accounts were targeted and AHCA is currently exploring additional security options to protect against further breaches.

For more information, including steps one may take to protect themselves from potential information, enrollees may call the Agency’s hotline at 1-844-749-8327.

Health care spending, regulations confront lawmakers

Battles over health-care spending and regulation of Florida’s vast health-care industry are likely to command a great deal of time and attention when the Florida Legislature convenes in January for its annual Session.

Lawmakers are again expected to engage in a tug-of-war about what type of regulations should be in place for health care facilities, but a main focus will be on Florida’s strained safety-net health program at a time of tight state finances.

Florida’s Medicaid program already costs $26 billion and covers an estimated 4 million people.

A July snapshot by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that Medicaid along with a major children’s health-insurance program provide coverage to two out of every five low-income people in the state, half the state’s children and more than three-fifths of all nursing home residents.

The bulk of money for Medicaid comes from the federal government, but this year more than $6 billion comes from general revenue, the state’s main budget account funded primarily by sales taxes.

House Health Care Appropriations Chairman Jason Brodeur, a Sanford Republican, said hurricanes Irma and Maria put “a bit of a strain” on the budget he oversees, and as a result that could hamper any requests for new social-services spending.

“From the explicit costs of providing more health and human services to a larger than anticipated population, to the implicit costs of things like the overtime paid to our (state employees) who are in charge of registering and providing (benefits) to all those new enrollees, all of those costs must be paid for before we can start looking at new programs,” he said.

Nevertheless, Brodeur said members have filed more than 200 requests to fund local projects “which is the exact opposite of `small government.’ ”

During the 2017 Session, legislators agreed to change how the state pays nursing homes to provide care for the poor and seniors who rely on Medicaid. Lawmakers decided to scrap a longstanding system where nursing homes have been paid based on audited cost reports and agreed to implement a prospective payment system where payments are determined in advance, regardless of the intensity of the services provided.

While lawmakers agreed to change the payment methodology, they delayed implementation of the new system until 2018. Brodeur said the conversion “is our next step in efficiency.”

Senate President Joe Negron, though, wants the Legislature to do more than pull the trigger on the prospective-payment system. He wants to increase the amount of money the state directs to paying nursing homes.

“That’s a very strong priority of mine,” said Negron who, quoting Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, notes that the average Medicaid-funded nursing home resident in Florida is an 85-year-old woman.

“These are the women who shaped our communities. We have a responsibility to give them the highest level of care,” Negron said.

The Stuart Republican also said he would like to help the industry offset the costs of generators that Gov. Rick Scott has mandated for nursing homes after deaths at a Broward County nursing home following Hurricane Irma. Negron predicted that the generators “will ultimately be a shared endeavor between the state and the industry.”

But Negron’s push to increase reimbursement for nursing homes and offset the costs of generators also comes at a time when two state agencies are requesting funding to help plug deficits.

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities is asking for $34 million in general revenue to help cover a $89 million deficit in a Medicaid waiver program that enables developmentally disabled people to live in communities instead of institutions. Also, the Department of Health is requesting $25 million to plug a shortfall in the Children’s Medical Services program, which pays the health care costs for medically complex children covered by Medicaid.

Negron downplayed the deficits in the programs and the effects they could have on new funding requests during the 60-daysession, which starts Jan. 9.

“You have to make difficult decisions,” Negron said of crafting the state budget. “That’s why I think the budget process is fascinating.”

While the annual budget is the only bill the Legislature is required to pass when it meets, it isn’t the only piece of health-care legislation that members will focus on.

Indeed, there are hundreds of bills filed for consideration, from requiring birth centers to report adverse events to state health care regulators (SB 510 and HB 673) to authorizing new needle-exchange programs to try to prevent the spread of infectious diseases (SB 800 and 579).

The Legislature will once again consider passing a bill that would allow ambulatory surgical centers to keep patients overnight. Florida law currently requires the surgical centers to release patients the same day they are admitted and cannot keep patients overnight.

“It’s silly that people have to be discharged the `same work day’ and not 24 hours. The marketplace could open up for consumers if they could adjust their schedules for the 24-hour standard,” Brodeur said.

The legislation (HB 23) is already ready for the House floor. While the House bill also would authorize and license so-called “recovery care centers,” to provide post-surgical and post-diagnostic care to patients for up to three days, the Senate version (SB 250) would only authorize overnight stays at ambulatory surgical centers.

Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican sponsoring the Senate version, said he does not plan to take the House bill as it has been drafted. “It’s my intention just to get the 24-hour piece done,” he said.

The House also is poised to vote on a measure (HB 27) that would eliminate a controversial regulatory program for hospitals that’s known as certificate of need. Bill sponsor Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, a Fort Myers Republican, said ending the regulations would remove “barriers to entry” and increase competition in the hospital industry.

“I think competition is healthy in almost all settings,” she said.

But critics have raised questions about how lifting the regulations, which require state approval of new facilities and programs, would affect older public hospitals that provide a wide array of services.

And while the legislation is touted as eliminating artificial barriers that impede competition, the bill would only eliminate so-called CONs for hospitals. New nursing home beds and facilities would still be regulated by the CON program.

The Florida Health Care Association, a statewide nursing-home group, has lobbied against legislative efforts to eliminate CONs for long-term care providers.

House Health Quality Subcommittee Chairman Rep. James Grant said he supports eliminating CONs for hospitals and nursing homes but said he won’t vote against Fitzenhagen’s bill for not including nursing homes.

“Some repeal is better than no repeal,” Grant, a Tampa Republican, said.

The Senate does not have a companion bill, though, and the potential CON elimination is opposed by much of the powerful hospital industry.

Florida Hospital Association President Bruce Rueben said certificate-of-need requirements have ensured that low-income communities and rural communities have access to inpatient, acute-care health services.

“CON deregulation would allow a proliferation of these services in affluent communities and undermine hospitals serving communities with high numbers of uninsured and underinsured Floridians,” Rueben said.

Report says loss of health care mandate would hit South, Central Florida hard

Three South Florida congressional districts represented by Republicans would be among the hardest-hit in the country according to a new report assessing how many people would lose or drop health care coverage if the final tax reform bill in Congress includes the U.S. Senate’s provision to repeal the individual coverage mandate in Obamacare.

A report “Estimates of the Increase in Uninsured by Congressional District Under the Senate GOP Tax Bill” from the Democratic-leaning Center for American Progress calculated the prospects for people dropping insurance in all 435 U.S. congressional districts, based on numbers produced by the Congressional Budget Office, if the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is repealed. The report, first produced earlier this week but revised late Wednesday, found the districts of U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo all would be among the top seven in the country in the numbers of people dropping health care coverage.

Districts of Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Val DemingsAlcee HastingsDarren SotoTed Deutch, and Frederica Wilson would not be far behind.

Only one Florida member of Congress, Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, could expect to see his district among the 100 in the nation that are least-affected by projected health care coverage reductions, according to the center. Florida’s 11th Congressional District in west-central Florida could expect to lose 24,100 people from health care coverage, the 18th-least among the nation’s 435 congressional districts.

The fate of the mandate is in the hands of the congressional conference committee, as the tax reform bill approved by the Senate includes the mandate repeal, while the bill approved by the House of Representatives does not.

Overall, Florida could see 873,000 people drop their health care coverage by 2025 if the mandate is eliminated the center estimated, according to the center. Nationally, state-by-state numbers pretty much rank the same as a state’s population size, and Florida would expect to have the third-highest number of people losing or dropping health care coverage, behind the only two states with higher populations, California and Texas.

With congressional districts, however, the variances range more widely, dependent on how many people in each district now are enrolled in Medicaid, or in health insurance policies purchased through the individuals’ market, or in insurance packages purchased through employer-sponsored plans.

The CBO projected that 5 million of those people dropping health care coverage would be dropping from Medicaid, another 5 million from the individuals’ market, and about 3 million from employer-sponsored health insurance.

“Mandate repeal has two effects on the individual market,” Emily Gee, a health economist at the Center for American Progress, explained in her report. “First, some healthy enrollees would drop out of ACA-compliant plans and become uninsured or underinsured. Second, because the remaining enrollees in the risk pool would be sicker on average, insurance companies would need to raise rates about 10 percent to cover the increased average cost. The resulting higher premiums would discourage even more people from obtaining coverage through the individual market.”

With those factors, Diaz-Balart’s district could become one of the most vulnerable in the nation to reductions in health care coverage, a phenomenon expected to not just affect individuals, but also the financial pressures on hospitals, other health care entities, and local governments, the report notes.

The center’s report says that Florida’s 25th Congressional District could expect to see 41,000 people drop or lose insurance, the fourth-highest number of any congressional district. Ros-Lehtinen’s district is projected to lose 40,800, the nation’s sixth-highest total; in Curbelo’s district, 39,900, seventh-highest among the 435 congressional districts, according to the Center for American Progress.

Diaz-Balart’s, Ros-Lehtinen’s, and Curbelo’s offices did not respond Thursday to a request from Florida Politics to comment on the center’s findings.

Several Democrats, already opposed to either version of the tax bill, responded, including Demings, whose 10th Congressional District was projected to lose 37,700 health care enrollees.

“After much debate, the facts are in: the president’s tax bill will raise your healthcare costs, putting your right to manage your own health further out of reach. Without a second thought, donors came first,” she said in a written statement. “The GOP’s proposal would mean nearly a million Floridians would lose their healthcare over the next eight years. Floridians have done their part by turning out in record numbers during the open enrollment period. However, the people seem to have been forgotten in a tax bill that was supposed to be all about the people.”

Soto, whose Florida’s 9th Congressional District in Central Florida is projected to lose about 35,400 enrollees, declared that “Florida’s hardworking families should be troubled by the current GOP Tax bill. As it stands, it is disastrous for our state’s health programs. In Central Florida alone [including his, Demings’ and Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy‘s districts,] approximately 103,000 people would face a reduction in health insurance coverage due to the individual mandate repeal.”

The other four Florida districts projected to be among the nation’s 50 hardest-hit nationally are Wasserman Schultz’s 23rd Congressional District in South Florida (expected to lose 37,700 health care enrollees); Hastings’ 20th Congressional District in South Florida (36,300); and Deutch’s 22nd Congressional District and Wilson’s 24th Congressional District, both in South Florida, both 35,200.

Across the country, the average congressional district would lose about 29,800 enrollees from health care plans, the center reported. Eighteen of Florida’s 27 congressional districts would exceed that average.

Stephanie Murphy CHIP reauthorization bill lining up as Democrats’ offering

With the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program and other health programs expiring, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy has introduced a reauthorization bill that is becoming the Democrats’ favored vehicle facing Republican alternative measures.

On Tuesday Murphy introduced House Resolution 4541, which would reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) community health centers funding, and other critical public health initiatives like the Special Diabetes program, the National Health Service Corps, and Family-to-Family Health Information Centers.

All of those programs had Sept. 30 reauthorization deadlines, which Congress missed.

The bill also provides funding to support the under-resourced Medicaid system in Puerto Rico and the other U.S. territories, and to support the Medicaid system in states like Florida that enroll displaced individuals from hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The cost of the bill is fully offset by modifying the timing, but not the amount, of federal payments to Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans, a move supported by numerous independent experts, according to a press release issued by Murphy’s office.

“A healthy nation is a strong and resilient nation,” Murphy said in the release. “My fiscally-responsible bill provides support for children and families, invests in the prevention and treatment of serious diseases, helps our fellow U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico and other territories, and strengthens the health care systems in states like Florida that are welcoming Americans displaced by Hurricane Maria. It’s vital that we work across party lines to help the tens of millions of Americans, including millions of children, who depend on these public health initiatives.”

There are several Republican and Democratic alternatives addressing CHIP and the other health programs. Murphy’s office said her bill has become the favorite among Democrats, drawing 30 co-sponsors already, including U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando.

Murphy’s bill provides a five-year extension for CHIP, a two-year extension for community health centers funding and other expiring health care programs. It also offers equity in the Medicaid programs for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other American territories, increases the Medicaid caps for those territories, and provides increased Medicaid reimbursement funding to Florida states for providing care to individuals from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who were displaced by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons