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Florida House says it is ready to build a budget

CrisafulliOne day after abruptly ending the legislative session, the House announced it is ready to begin the budget process.

The announcement from House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Orlando, came in response to a late statement issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS.

"Last night, after Gov. [Rick] Scott and Attorney General [Pam] Bondi filed a lawsuit on behalf of Florida, CMS issued a statement reversing their earlier position that [Low Income Pool] funding and Medicaid Expansion are linked," Criasfulli wrote in a Wednesday morning memo to members. "We applaud CMS for their statement, and agree that the policy preference of the Obama administration should not be used as leverage for the Low Income Pool. The House stands ready to secure allocations and get into budget conference in order to finish our constitutional duty to pass a balanced budget."

But that wasn't the only interpretation of the CMS statement.

During a meeting of the House Democrats Wednesday, Rep. Mia Jones insisted that CMS had not backed off of its earlier position, noting that the agency would still rather expand coverage than provide additional dollars for uncompensated care.

"Don't get caught up in the interpretation from the other side," she warned her colleagues.

Senate Health and Human Services Subcommittee Chairman René García, R-Hialeah, said he, too believed the two programs were still linked, both in the eyes of the Florida Senate and federal health officials.

"The linkage is the population of people that [the programs] cover," he said.

García said the Senate would not shift its position based on the statements from CMS or Crisafulli.

"We have to find a solution to the uninsured problem in the state of Florida," he said.