Florida Hospital CEO: State should expand Medicaid

Florida Hospital CEO Lars Houmann spoke with FOX 35 about his impassioned plea for the Florida Legislature to expand Medicaid during the two month legislative session now underway in Tallahassee.

The state is facing a more than $1 billion budget hole, because the federal government ended the Low Income Pool (LIP) in Florida that used to give money to the state to care for the poor and uninsured.  The feds want the state to set up a replacement program through the Affordable Care Act, and so far the legislature has been unwilling. Houmann told FOX 35 News they are using a flawed argument against it.

"We've already taken and received a lot of federal money into our Medicaid program and into our low income model," said Houmann.

The Florida Senate has already passed an expansion through its first committee, but the House has no interest so far.

Houmann says without that expansion Florida Hospital will be out $80 million. The Senate is estimating Orlando-area hospitals will lose almost $200 million. Houmann says care will remain the same, other things likely would not.

"We'll still be there for them, but our cost structure just shrank by $80 million, and we are going to have to figure out ways to take that out of the operation of the system," he said.

He mentioned construction of new facilities to care of the sick, instructional classes for hospital workers, and new technology for care as possible places where cuts could occur.  FOX 35 asked Florida Governor Rick Scott how he felt about the Medicaid bill in the Florida Senate, but he refused to tip his hand.

"It's the second week of session. It's just, I mean the session is just getting started, so we'll see as things go through", the governor said.

Houmann will try to appeal to the governor using Mr. Scott's favorite subject: jobs.

He told FOX 35 , "My guess is the majority of those jobs are not people whose wage package includes health insurance, so he has the opportunity to finish his job."

If the state did expand Medicaid, 800,000 Floridians, if not more, could get coverage. Houmann also admits Florida Hospital would get a major cash boost.

"Some number of uninsured will exist, and I think it should go to those institutions that have the highest costs associated with taking care of those people, and that's typically our big, safety net teaching hospitals in the state."

Simply charging more for services to make up the gap is not an option for hospitals since contracts are locked in for costs for both insurance companies and the federal government, and they can not charge the uninsured more, since those people are not likely to be able to pay the bill anyway. The discussion over the expansion of Medicaid will likely go down to the wire during the two month legislative session.
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