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Bean: 'Reasonableness' Will Lead To Solution For $400M Health Care Budget Gap

Florida Senate

The federal government is standing firm in its decision not to increase funding for indigent health care in Florida next year.

State health officials hoped the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would pony up more than $304 million in matching funds for a program called the Low Income Pool, down from a half billion this year.

One Jacksonville Senator isn't worried about the decrease in funds. At least for now.

Florida Deputy Secretary for Medicaid Justin Senior told lawmakers last week a deal with the federal government over funding for the Low Income Pool hadn’t been finalized. Many hoped that meant more could be forthcoming.

But in a letter sent to state officials Thursday, The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services says it’ll stick to its guns, in effect capping total matching funds at $608 million. Although, Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) said the state still has some wiggle room.

“They still said there’d be a small amount of money coming next year, but then that’s going to be the final year and it’s only going to be a fraction of what it was,” Bean said.

The Health Policy Chairman and his Senate colleagues tried to pass a private sector alternative to Medicaid expansion to make up for a similar budget gap last year when federal officials were set to pull all funding for LIP. That of course led to a budget meltdown when the House rejected the plan.

Bean said he’s confident the Legislature can make up the difference between the proposed funding and this year’s $1 billion pot for LIP.

“Still a lot of negotiation out there left to go,” Bean said. “But I envision it’s still within reasonableness that the state government will work to make that LIP stream whole.”

Bean didn’t detail how the state could come up with the extra money, but lawmakers are expecting a more than $650 million surplus next year. Still, much of that money is already spoken for, as some have suggested using it for more tax cuts and extra education spending.  

Bean also reiterated what he’s told WJCT before, that the Legislature will move ahead with a dozen or so measures dealing with health care costs, including telemedicine and direct primary care.

The entire LIP program is set to phase out going into 2017.

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.