Health care impasse taints national Republican Party image, Tom Lee says

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Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee said Tuesday that he had a face-to-face meeting with Gov. Rick Scott Monday night, the first of the session focusing on the substantive difference between the Senate and the governor’s office on the health care financing impasse.

Lee told reporters that Scott initiated the meeting and that he went down to the governor’s office. While there wasn’t anything “illuminating,” Lee said he was grateful for the conversation.

“I think everyone is realizing this is a very real problem, not just for the completion of session,” Lee said, “but for the image of the Republican Party in America.

“I do not think that the House or the governor wants this blood on their hands when the cart goes into the ditch because people will not come to the table and have an honest policy discussion about legitimate differences we have over health care funding.”

Lee said he suspects that the conversations will be “advanced even greater” in the “dark days of June.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee chairman referenced June because of the timelines associated with the approval of Medicaid waivers and amendments to Medicaid waivers. Under a final rule approved by the federal government in 2012 there is a 30-day requirement for states to gather public testimony and another 30 day timeline for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to obtain public input.

Lee said a memorandum of understanding from the federal government that provided the Legislature with a dollar amount it could expect to receive in Low Income Pool funding could hasten the summer session. Barring that, though, it would be difficult to complete work before late June.

Additionally, Lee said, the Legislature needs time not only to build a budget but to “build a policy to implement that budget.”

When asked how the conversation went, Lee said the governor was upbeat and conciliatory. He said that Scott shared his perspective about long-term care solutions including free market concepts.

“I think he’s trying to get his head around some compromises that could bring this all in for a landing and I think that’s great,” Lee said of the governor. “I think the door has been cracked on … drawing down federal money to fund insurance to low-income Floridians.”

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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