Florida governor to sue feds for withholding hospital funding

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has announced he plans to sue the federal government for allegedly withholding money from the state to force it into expanding Medicaid, according to a WLRN report.

Florida has had a Medicaid waiver since 2005, and the state has received between $1 billion and $2 billion from the federal government annually to support its Low Income Pool to aid the state's safety-net hospitals. In February, CMS announced it would not renew the Medicaid waiver, which is set to expire June 30. However, CMS said it would work with Florida to develop payment approaches for Florida's Medicaid beneficiaries.

Earlier this week, CMS sent a letter to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration suggesting that the fate of the state's Low Income Pool is tied to the state's decision on Medicaid expansion, according to a Health News Florida report.

"The state's expansion status is an important consideration in our approach regarding extending the LIP beyond June," wrote Vikki Wachino, acting director of CMS' Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services, in the letter to the FAHCA. "We believe that the future of the LIP, sufficient provider rates, and Medicaid expansion are linked in considering a solution for Florida's low income citizens, safety net providers and tax payers."

Federal healthcare officials and Gov. Scott's administration have been involved in negotiations over the LIP program for months, and the recent letter from CMS throws a new twist into those talks.

Justin Senior, deputy secretary for Medicaid at FAHCA, responded to CMS, warning the agency that tying the extension of LIP funding to Florida's Medicaid expansion status was illegal.

"In NFIB v. Sebelius…the U.S. Supreme Court explicitly warned the federal government against attempting to coerce states into participating in Medicaid expansion — yet that appears to be exactly what the federal government is attempting here," Mr. Senior wrote in the letter to Ms. Wachino.

Now, Gov. Scott plans to enforce the letter of the law by suing the federal government. "It is appalling that President Obama would cut off federal healthcare dollars to Florida in an effort to force our state into Obamacare," Gov. Scott said in a statement, according to WLRN.

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