Florida’s nursing homes would see a 7% bump in reimbursement rates while Moffitt Cancer Center will get a $20 million recurring pot of money to help with its major expansion project in Pasco County.
Those were some key parts of an agreement on health care spending reached by House and Senate budget negotiators on Tuesday. Lawmakers are racing to wrap all work on the budget by the end of the day in order to be able to take a final vote on Friday, the last day of the regular Session.
The push to help Moffit was a major priority for Senate President Wilton Simpson. But Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Jay Trumbull said that while the funding has been agreed to, they are still working out details of a final bill addressing the project. The Senate has proposed that the $20 million be recurring for 30 years, totaling a $600 million investment.
Trumbull said the House wants to make it clear that if Moffitt borrows money through bonds to finance its expansion project that the state is responsible for repaying the money to bond holders.
As part of the final deal, the House backed away from a plan to cut $100 million in recurring general revenue from hospital funding and redirect the money toward nurse training. House Republicans had championed the plan while at the same time contending that hospitals had recently seen strong financial performances and could absorb the cut to help the state deal with nursing shortages.
The shift in money was in addition to a $309 million recurring cut to the so-called “critical care fund,” which provided enhanced payments to hospitals that provided the most Medicaid care in the state. While the Legislature stuck to a decision to eliminate the “critical care fund,” it did agree to target $50 million in enhanced payments to some hospitals that provide large amounts of charity care but did not qualify for new supplemental payments.
Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida CEO Justin Senior said large safety net providers that have level 1 trauma centers — such as Broward Health, Jackson Memorial Hospital and Orlando Health — will see major reductions under the proposed budget.
But Senior said the 11th hour “sprinkle list” could help abate some of the funding cuts the facilities will face.
“There’s still a little bit of time left for presiding officers to have input into the final product,” Senior said.
One clear winner in the final budget deal is Florida’s nursing home industry. The industry won approval on Monday of a much-sought-after bill that alters staffing requirements for nursing homes.
The final budget agreement includes a hike in Medicaid reimbursement rates while also providing enough money to ensure nursing home workers are paid a minimum of $15 per hour.
“We feel like it’s a great landing,” said Emmett Reed, executive director for the Florida Health Care Association.
Lawmakers noted, though, that the enhanced nursing home funds will only be made available to facilities that make their finances available for public review per HB 539.