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Statewide hearings on health care fund start in Orlando today

Florida Capitol/Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Florida Capitol/Photo: Wikimedia Commons

For the first time today, the public will get to weigh in on what to do with a federal program for the uninsured that’s created gridlock at the Statehouse. The meeting in Orlando kicks off a series of statewide hearings on the Low Income Pool, or LIP. 

LIP is a $2.2 billion dollar fund that mostly reimburses hospitals for treating Floridians without health insurance. It expires this summer, and federal officials aren’t inclined to extend it, saying instead the state should expand Medicaid to an additional 800,000 Floridians.

Governor Rick Scott has threatened a lawsuit over the issue, and lawmakers are in gridlock over how to pay for coverage of the uninsured.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli sent an offer to the Florida Senate that would put $600 million of general revenue to draw down another $900 million in LIP funding - but only if the Florida Senate gave up a proposal to expand Medicaid. The senate wants to expand Medicaid by creating an insurance marketplace for the state.

That offer is no longer on the table, and the Florida house adjourned early Tuesday without passing a budget.

Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Elizabeth Dudek said the meetings are planned in Orlando, Miami and Tallahassee.

“They have components in there we would like the federal government to consider," Dudek said. "Our goal would still be to try and get the LIP approval for the state and that’s what we’re working on.”

The hearings will collect comments on a proposal to extend LIP for two years. Those comments will be sent to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

That federal agency will ultimately decide if Florida will still be allowed to continue the LIP program.