- Associated Press - Monday, June 8, 2015

MIAMI (AP) - A federal court judge gave the Obama administration until Tuesday to say whether it will accept Gov. Rick Scott’s request for mediation in a dispute over billions of dollars in federal health care funds.

The Republican governor is suing the federal government for withholding hospital funds because Florida is not expanding Medicaid.

The Obama administration has tentatively said it would partially extend the so-called low-income pool funds for two more years. The federal funding would be $600 million in the 2015-16 fiscal year - down from about a billion in the current fiscal year - and just over $300 million next year.

The state has known for more than a year that the funds would expire when the new fiscal year begins July 1 but waited until the last minute to submit a proposal. Now Scott is blaming the federal government for not responding in time for lawmakers to finalize a state budget during the regular legislative session, which ended May 1.

Lawmakers said over the weekend during a special session that they are close to agreeing upon a budget, which they must do by June 30 to avoid a government shutdown.

On Monday, Scott’s administration asked a judge for court-ordered mediation to resolve negotiations with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency deferred comment to the Justice Department, and a spokeswoman said they would oppose the motion.

The Obama administration and hospitals want Florida to expand Medicaid to 800,000 low-income Floridians, arguing it’s more effective to give consumers insurance than to pay hospitals for caring for the uninsured retroactively. But Scott and House Republicans remain adamantly opposed to accepting any funds tied to so-called Obamacare. The House rejected an expansion compromise during a special session Friday.

Eight other states that receive the low-income pool hospital funds have been watching the battle as the Obama administration has said it will use the same principals to determine Florida’s funding to guide their decision in other states.

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