Rick Scott puts health care possibilities to HHS chief

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Gov. Rick Scott has been on a tear lately, shooting off a series of letters to the feds.

In the last two days, the governor sent letters to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell regarding Florida’s strained relations with the federal government.

Scott sent the VA’s McDonald a letter on Wednesday thanking him for two things: providing Florida access to a survey report and accreditation of Veteran’s Nursing Homes.

Scott expressed gratitude to McDonald for a follow-up to a telephone call between the two on March 8.

Scott and the Agency for Health Care Administration had been arguing over the state’s access to the Veteran’s Administration nursing homes. AHCA filed suit against the VA in federal court last June to get right of entry to the homes.

In another, higher-profile battle with the federal government over Medicaid financing known as the Low-Income Pool, Scott sent a letter to HHS Secretary Burwell asking her office to answer three pointed questions “immediately”:

  • Would HHS consider giving Florida a block grant of federal money to decide how to cover those who currently do not have government or private health insurance?
  • Outside of the Medicaid program entirely, would HHS be interested in a larger population of individuals being eligible for insurance plans offered a 100-perent-federally-funded-federal exchange, without assessing any new fees or administrative costs to the state?
  • Would HHS support health care coverage initiatives that specifically protect the hundreds of thousands of Floridians between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty line from losing their current private health plans on the federal exchange with any future reforms?

“To best guide the Commission’s work over the next few weeks,” Scott wrote in the letter. “I am requesting help from HHS to immediately answer the following questions about whether your agency would approve at the federal level.”

He put the request in bold and underlined it.

The agency did not have a response to the letter at press time.

Benjamin Wakana, spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, said the feds are working with the state on the LIP proposal. “If Florida decides to pursue a Medicaid expansion,” Wakana said, “HHS stands ready to work with the state to design a program that would be good for the economy and health of Florida, and tailored to Florida’s needs.”

Scott sued Burwell in court alleging the federal government is coercing the state into expanding Medicaid under Obamacare by withholding approval of a $2.2 billion supplemental Medicaid program called Low-Income Pool. Most of that money comes from federal and local governments.

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.


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