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Anitere Flores bets on Washington intervention in Florida’s health care budget

Sen. Anitere Flores has built a health care budget around $600 in federal money for indigent care that she concedes might never arrive.

“If it doesn’t happen, look, we’ll have to reassess the situation,” Flores said this week during a hearing before the Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

“This is just the Senate’s version. There’s a whole other version that’s going on in the House,” she said.

Pending negotiations with the House and Gov. Rick Scott, “I think it’s important for us as a Senate to take a stand and day, ‘We’re going to do whatever we can to help our hospitals help make their case to the federal government,’ ” Flores said.

“If we simply do nothing — if simply say, ‘Well, let’s just not even include it,’ that may not send the right message to Washington as far as the state’s commitment to hospitals and to Medicaid re-imbursement.”

The money is for LIP, the Low Income Pool for hospitals that care for indigent patients. The Obama administration stopped supporting the program in a failed effort to goose the state into accepting the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. The state has been filling the financial gap since then.

Scott included LIP money in his proposed budget. The House budget lacks LIP funding — a concession to reality, according to Jason Brodeur, chairman of the responsible House subcommittee.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran confirmed that Sen. Marco Rubio has been in contact with House leaders about the prospects.

“It looks promising, but we’ll see. And they know our timeline; they know our schedule,” Corcoran said during a news briefing with reporters.

But, as a general proposition, he indicated it was too soon to count those chickens.

“I think it’s generally considered an irresponsible budgeting practice to budget money that’s not in it. That’s why, in the past, when we had issues over the LIP funding into our budget until we had the (federal) LIP funding,” he said.

Still, Flores is proceeding for now on the assumption the feds will pay up.

“We just have to be in the best position to make our case why this funding is important — that it’s important for our state, for the hospitals, but mostly for the patients,” she told committee members.

By the time the House and Senate wrap up their budgets in a few weeks, state leaders should know whether the Trump administration is good for the money, she said.

“At that point, we’ll be armed with the best information prior to actually finalizing a budget for the full state — at that point, in negotiations with the House, as well.”

“What happens if that $600 million does not come from the federal government?” Sen. Bobby Powell asked.

“It’s a great question, and I’m afraid we think we know what happens,” Flores said.

“Our confidence level in this coming through is a whole lot higher than it was a couple of years ago,” she said. “If it doesn’t happen, we’ll have to reassess the situation.”

Written By

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

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