A federal judge on Wednesday denied a request from Gov. Rick Scott that the court intervene in the state’s ongoing negotiations with healthcare regulators over the extension and revamping of a $1 billion government program that pays hospitals for caring for uninsured and under-insured patients.
In denying Gov. Scott’s request, Chief Judge for the U.S. District Court in Pensacola M. Casey Rodgers cited a June 19 hearing in the state's lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that will require “extensive preparation on the part of all parties.’’
If the court were to compel mediation in the federal-state negotiations over the hospital payment program known as the Low Income Pool or LIP, then such an order “would be unduly burdensome, expensive, and not likely to advance the process any faster than the expected proceeding currently scheduled,’’ Rodgers wrote.
Gov. Scott issued a written statement following the judge's order, lamenting what he has repeatedly alleged are coercive tactics by the federal government to pressure Florida to adopt Medicaid expansion.
Without an agreement to renew LIP, Florida legislators cannot craft a budget that ensures state hospitals receive funds to provide medical care for needy residents, according to the state's prior legal filings.
In his order, Rodgers acknowledged the Legislature’s looming June 30 deadline to adopt a budget and changed the nature of the upcoming proceeding from an oral argument to an evidentiary hearing on Gov. Scott’s prior motion for a preliminary injunction that would allow Florida to keep LIP funding at its current level of more than $2 billion until the suit is resolved.
The evidentiary hearing will require both parties to present witness testimony live in court, which could include the state and federal officials who have been negotiating over LIP, up to and including Gov. Scott, who met with HHS Sec. Sylvia Burwell in May.
Scott's lawsuit, filed in April, alleges that federal healthcare regulators are withholding approval of Florida’s LIP program in an effort to force the state to adopt Medicaid expansion.
The evidentiary hearing is scheduled for June 19 at the U.S. District Court in Pensacola.