Florida lawmakers say they’re closer to averting a government shutdown this summer after the Obama administration moved to defuse a health-funding standoff with Republican Gov. Rick Scott that has featured a lawsuit, comparisons to a TV mob family and personal pleas to Congress.
Key players in Tallahassee said the administration sped the path to a state budget pact by late June, even though it proposed a significant cut to the Low Income Pool (LIP), a program that helps Florida hospitals care for the poor and uninsured.
For weeks Mr. Scott harangued the Obama administration and even sued them in federal court, saying it was using Mafia-like tactics to force him to expand Medicaid instead of reauthorizing more than $2 billion in LIP funding. With no end in sight, the governor accused the federal Department of Health and Human Services of holding his state budget hostage as uncertainty over health care left a big hole in the plans.
The administration blinked Thursday, saying it could justify $1 billion for the program in the coming year and $600 million in fiscal 2017, casting it as breathing room for Florida to embrace Medicaid expansion or another system that extends medical coverage to the poor.
While it’s half what Mr. Scott requested, the concession from Washington gives state lawmakers a baseline to work with as they hammer out a spending deal.
“While we are still evaluating the effect of the new LIP funding level, this progress will greatly help the [state] House and Senate finalize allocations and pass a balanced budget that meets the needs of Floridians during the upcoming special session in June,” said House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, a Republican who credited Mr. Scott’s “tenacity” in negotiating with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
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