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As pressure mounts, health care talks delayed

Federal health care officials are temporarily suspending negotiations with Florida over a $2.2 billion program that helps safety-net hospitals, the state Agency for Health Care Administration said Wednesday.

Agency Secretary Elizabeth Dudek called the news "sudden and disappointing."

Dudek said Florida's conversations with the federal government over the so-called Low Income Pool program "had been productive and positive until this point," and suggested the move "could signal the abrupt end of this federal healthcare program in Florida."

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services declined to say why its chief negotiator would be unavailable for the next two weeks. But a CMS spokesman said the agency planned to "remain in contact with the state."

The federal government's announcement only adds to the tension in Tallahassee over next year’s budget. House and Senate lawmakers are about $5 billion apart because the Senate budget is counting on receiving billions of dollars in federal aid, including the LIP money.

Sen. René García, R-Hialeah, who had discussed the LIP program with federal officials in Washington one day earlier, said was puzzled over the federal government’s action.

"I don’t know where this is coming from," García said. "When we met with them, they were very receptive to working with us."

More here.