House and Senate get closer on health budget
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 3/2/21-Members of the Florida House of Representatives stand for a prayer during the opening day of the 2021 Legislative session, Tuesday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

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Funding for Medicaid and the critical-care fund are contested by the two chambers.

The House on Friday made a health-care budget offer that would bring its spending plan closer to the Senate, but differences remained.

The House stepped back from a proposal to slash hospital inpatient and outpatient Medicaid payment rates by $288 million and from a proposal to reduce money in a hospital “critical care fund” by $226 million.

Money in the critical-care fund is used to enhance Medicaid payments for 28 hospitals that provide the largest amounts of charity care.

The House proposal would not make reductions to hospitals for the upcoming fiscal year. But it would eliminate the critical-care fund in the 2022-2023 fiscal year.

The Senate had already backed off deep hospital cuts during a weekend budget conference.

But unlike the new House plan, the Senate budget proposal still recommended about $33 million in reductions in Medicaid rates for inpatient and outpatient care.

The Senate budget proposal would keep the critical-care fund intact.

The House offer came as the chambers try to reach agreement on the one must-pass bill of the year: the budget.

To adjourn the regular legislative session on April 30 as scheduled, lawmakers must have an agreed-to spending plan by Tuesday because of a legally required 72-hour “cooling-off” period before a vote.

The House proposal Friday also backed off a proposal to reduce Medicaid nursing-home payment rates by 2 percent.

The Senate did not propose cutting money for nursing homes. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, said Friday that the Senate would review the House proposal.

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Republished with permission from News Service Florida.

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