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Saturday, Nov 22, 2014

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Castor: Blocking Medicaid expansion but asking for billions more for Medicaid is “ironic”


Published:

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor wants to know why the state is sending mixed signals on health care for the poor.

It’s blocking Medicaid expansion, she says, but also asking the feds for $4.5 billion in additional funds for the state’s Low Income Pool, or LIP, which pays for hospitals’ charity care.

“This is ironic, to say the least,” the Democratic congresswoman wrote in a letter to Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford, both Republicans.

Castor’s office released the letter Friday.

“Now, Florida’s request for an extension and increase in Medicaid LIP funds will undergo great scrutiny and skepticism due to the incongruity of Florida’s Medicaid policy.”

That “incongruity,” however, mostly has to do with the different branches not being on the same page.

Last year, the Senate passed a bill to take federal money under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act to insure more Floridians — those still considered poor but making just enough to put them over the poverty line.

Gaetz’s chamber would take the money to offer private-insurance vouchers.

Weatherford and other House Republicans said they didn’t trust federal officials to follow through and stood firm on not taking one cent in federal funds.

Neither side has changed their position, with Weatherford suggesting the issue was unlikely to get anywhere in 2014.

In the meantime, Gov. Rick Scott, who supported expansion last year, has seemingly abandoned it as a priority this session, focusing instead of tax cuts.

But Liz Dudek, secretary of the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration, defends the ask.

An undated talking points memo on her letterhead says “the LIP pool has been limited at $1 billion for 8 years, with no adjustments upward for inflation; and Florida’s peer states, like California, Texas, and New York, receive significantly more of these types of funds.”

The memo also notes the request “is not associated with Medicaid

expansion in any way. They are 2 separate issues ... These two issues have NO link.”

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