Senate President Andy Gardiner memos members: "We have the obligation to make coverage affordable …"

Andy Gardiner

Senate President Andy Gardiner, who began the session by saying the state needed to have a “discussion” about Medicaid expansion, explained in a memo to senators why he was pushing ahead with a bill that would extend coverage to 800,000 Floridians.

The Thursday memo was accompanied with a detailed breakdown of the lengthy bill that will be considered next week by the Florida Senate.

“Some say Florida should not expand the existing Medicaid program and I agree,” Gardiner wrote in the memo. “But we have the obligation to make coverage affordable and the opportunity to develop a consumer-driven approach — one that provides access to high-quality, affordable health care coverage while promoting personal responsibility.

“We should develop options that uniquely suit the needs of Floridians. We should examine the opportunity for expansion and determine the best way to put in place conservative, free market guardrails that will control the cost and growth of the Medicaid program for Florida’s taxpayers.”

Gardiner’s memo came the same day that Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee cautioned that spending priorities of the governor and others could be in trouble because of the “lack of clarity” over health care issues. Lee was referencing the federal government’s announcement that it would not extend as it stands the Low Income Pool (LIP), a $2 billion pot of Medicaid funding composed mostly of federal and local funding. LIP is spent mostly on hospitals that treat the poor and uninsured, but also is spent on federally qualified health centers as well as physician training programs.

The federal government advised the state in April 2014 it would not extend LIP beyond June 30, 2015. However,  Scott included the $2 billion in his budget for the 2015-16 year. The governor sent a letter to President Barack Obama this week saying he would not backfill with general revenue or state dollars any deficit caused the termination of LIP.

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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