Federal health officials turned up the pressure on Florida Tuesday, saying the future of $1.3 billion in federal funding for hospitals that treat low-income patients is tied to whether the Legislature expands Medicaid.
In a letter to Florida’s Medicaid director, a top federal official wrote that the federal government is willing to consider the state’s request to keep the so-called Low Income Pool (LIP) in place after the program ends in June. But U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Acting Director Vikki Wachino noted "the state's expansion status is an important consideration in our approach regarding extending the LIP program."
Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said the correspondence highlighted "the need to consider a comprehensive Florida solution."
"Time is of the essence,” he said. "The Senate remains open to meeting at any time to discuss our free-market approach to expansion or any alternative the House or governor would like to propose."
But House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, a leading opponent of Medicaid expansion, said LIP and expansion should not be linked, and blasted the federal government for holding Florida hostage.
"It is unthinkable that they would leave our state on the hook for over a billion dollars simply because they want a specific policy outcome," said Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, in a terse statement.
The letter and reaction from House and Senate leaders is only the latest salvo in a nasty feud between Washington and Tallahassee about LIP and Medicaid expansion — two issues that have all but paralyzed lawmakers with only weeks remaining in the 60-day session.