Gov. Rick Scott said Friday that, like Major League Baseball teams, hospitals should share profits if the federal government refuses to authorize $2.2 billion in health-care spending.
In a letter to the president of the Florida Hospital Association, Scott proposed that hospitals agree to share profits if the U.S. Health and Human Services Department rejects the state's application to extend the Low Income Pool, or LIP, program. The program, which mostly sends money to hospitals and other medical providers that care for large numbers of low-income patients, is set to expire June 30 unless state and federal officials reach an agreement.
"After my meeting with HHS, and their subsequent press release criticizing our pending LIP application, I now believe it is more important than ever for us to begin preparing a state budget without any LIP funds from the federal government," Scott wrote to FHA President Bruce Rueben.
Federal officials have not officially decided whether to renew the LIP program, but said Wednesday that, at first blush, "the proposal currently posted for public comment in Florida falls short of the key principles HHS will use in considering proposals regarding uncompensated care pool programs, and the size of the proposed LIP appears larger than what matches the principles."
Scott, a former hospital CEO, drew on an unlikely metaphor while proposing that hospitals could share what he called "$3.7 billion in record profits."
"Your assistance in suggesting fair profit sharing to replace federal LIP funds at those institutions that rely on them most, like Shands Jacksonville, will be critical to keeping them up and running," he wrote. "This would be similar to how large market baseball teams share revenues with small market baseball teams."
Scott said he wanted the hospitals to submit three models by May 22, so that his Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding could consider them on May 26.
Lawmakers are set to begin a special session to resolve the state budget plan on June 1.
Funding for LIP is part of a complex health-care logjam that has left legislative leaders unable to reach an agreement on a spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1. Hoping to encourage federal officials to approve the state's LIP proposal, the Senate proposed a $2.8 billion initiative that would use Medicaid expansion funding to help low-income Floridians purchase private insurance.
But Scott and the House have fiercely opposed the expansion alternative, and the governor has sued in an effort to prevent federal officials from linking the LIP decision to Medicaid expansion. In his letter Friday, Scott said federal officials had ruled out a part of the Senate plan that would require some recipients to work.
Meanwhile, Democrats pounced on an Associated Press story saying that Scott's support for Medicaid expansion in 2013, which he attributed in part to his mother's death, was a "ruse" to get the federal government to approve a waiver for the state's existing Medicaid program. Scott mentioned the waiver when asked Thursday why he backed expansion, which was rejected at the time by the Legislature.
"The lengths to which Rick Scott will go to mislead the public are disgusting," Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant said. "Shame is not a strong enough word."
But Scott's office said the AP misinterpreted his remarks.
"The Governor was asked by an AP reporter whether or not his support for Medicaid expansion in 2013 was a 'lie.' Governor Scott answered the question by discussing that he came out in support of Medicaid expansion, only if it was fully federally funded, at the same time the federal government granted Florida a waiver to let the state reform its Medicaid system. Unfortunately, the AP editorialized the Governor's statement," the governor's office said in a statement issued Friday.