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Lawmakers agree to delay controversial hospital funding model


Specifics still need to be ironed out, but hospitals across Florida are already celebrating the news that a controversial funding model will not be implemented as planned this year.

The so-called "tiering" law would have required counties that use local dollars to draw down more federal money for hospitals to begin sharing that money statewide. Jackson Health System in Miami was bracing for a $140 million hit as a result of the new law. Tampa General Hospital said its loss would have been $43 million. Miami Children’s Hospital and All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg estimated they would collectively see funding cut $17.6 million.

The Legislature's two health care budget chiefs -- Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, and Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring-- agreed this morning that the law should be delayed at least for a year. That gives the state time to complete a study of its existing Medicaid funding mechanisms and come up with recommendations, as required by the federal government.

"We don’t know what happens next year so the best thing to do is maintain the status quo," Grimsley said. "When we come back in session next year, we will then have a better idea of what direction we need to go."

Maintaining the status quo is what hospitals have been asking for; changing the tiering law was at the top of the priority list for those that receive local funding to increase the amount of federal Medicaid dollars they receive. These hospitals worried about having to share the resulting federal dollars with hospitals in counties that don't invest local money.

In recent years, hospital funding has been drastically altered by various changes in state law. Tiering was one blow too many, said Amy Maguire, vice president for government and corporate relations at All Children's.

"We're able to serve so many kids because of our partnership with the (Juvenile Welfare Board) and the local dollars it provides," she said.