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Northeast Florida Doctors Ask State, Feds For Help Covering Uninsured Patients

The Florida Channel

Northeast Florida doctors are pleading with state officials to help pay for uninsured patients’ health care.

They raised their voices in Orlando Wednesday, as regulators held a public hearing on a request for more federal money.

This week, Florida House lawmakers went home from Tallahassee even though three days remained in the lawmaking session. For the first time in more than 40 years, a chamber quit early over a budget disagreement. The culprit: how to pay for uninsured people’s medical care, with a federal program set to expire in June.

“We have to able to approach this from the position of what is best for patients,” says Bryan Campbell, Executive Vice President of the Duval County Medical Society. It’s an association of about 2,000 doctors.

Campbell says the big fear is, if the federal low-income-pool, or LIP, money goes away and the state continues refusing to expand Medicaid, UF Health Jacksonville hospital will close. He says 40 percent of its patients can’t afford to pay.

“If the hospital shuts down, those patients don’t have that hospital to go to, but they’re going to go somewhere,” he says.

And, he says, other hospitals in town aren’t equipped to treat them without likely raising costs for all patients.

Last week, UF Health Jacksonville CEO Russ Armistead testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee, saying,“This is pretty uncomfortable for me to keep whining about. I have physicians, I have residents, and I have employees who are saying to me, ‘Are we going to keep our doors open or do I need to find another job?’”

The Duval County Medical Association supports the state of Florida’s appeal to extend the LIP program for two more years. And it also wants the Legislature to pass a Senate plan to expand Medicaid—the same plan the House refused before adjourning this week.

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration continues its public hearings on LIP extension Thursday in Miami and Friday in Tallahassee.

Corrected: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated UF Health North is in danger of closing. The facility that's threatened is actually UF Health Jacksonville, which is the 8th Street campus downtown. 

You can follow Jessica Palombo @jessicapubradio.