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Jacksonville Senator ‘Optimistic’ On Indigent Health Funding Renewal

Wikimedia Commons

The fate of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law is uncertain after the election of Republican Donald Trump, who campaigned on a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

But not everyone is sweating the uncertainty.

Senate Health Policy Committee Chairman Aaron Bean sees the beginning of the end for a fierce health-budget battle that’s haunted the Florida Legislature for four years. Bean has been one of the most influential voices in the health care debate, which has centered on the Low-Income Pool, or LIP, that helps reimburse hospitals for indigent health care.

“If you go to (University of Florida) Jacksonville right now, there’s a line in their waiting room of people with nowhere else to go,” he said.

Facing the loss of federal money for LIP, Bean led a Senate push to accept federal dollars to create a private-sector state health insurance exchange. That bipartisan effort failed in the House, though.

At the same time, the Obama administration argued the LIP money would be irrelevant if the state expanded Medicaid.

LIP is set to expire by next year—once again threatening to throw the state budget process into chaos.

But with the president-elect vowing an ObamaCare repeal, Bean sees a lot more room for compromise.

“I am optimistic. It may not be called LIP, it may be called something else. But we need, our health system if people may not know it, is based on payments from the federal government that goes to these hospitals. These hospitals are expensive to run, but they save lives and they treat patients,” he said.

For now, the state Agency for Health Care Administration is asking lawmakers for more than $600 million for extra Medicaid payments to cover the impending loss of LIP funding.

Meanwhile, Bean said he doesn’t expect to keep his chairmanship next session, but also said he’ll continue pushing for policies relating to health care.

“Although it’s been great learning health care – there’s always a way to do it better, that’s the one thing I’ve learned serving in state government –I just read the tea leaves of a shakeup. We’ve got new leadership, a new Senate President,” Bean said.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at, at (904) 358 6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk.

Photo: "Stethoscope" by Wikimedia Commons used under Creative Commons license

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.