- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Florida Gov. Rick Scott personally pleaded with Capitol Hill Republicans Tuesday to hold hearings, write letters or can do whatever they can to back his fight to renew federal funding that pays hospitals for treating the poor and illegal immigrants, even as the administration pushes him — kicking and screaming — to expand Medicaid instead.

The GOP governor said House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, Michigan Republican, agreed to hold hearings this summer on whether the administration tried to coerce certain states into expanding Medicaid benefits under Obamacare by withholding matching federal funds for the Low Income Pool (LIP), which helps hospitals care for the poor and uninsured.

“This is just the next step of federal overreach by the Obama administration over states’ rights,” Mr. Scott told reporters at the Cannon House Office Building.

It was the Republican governor’s second visit to Washington in as many weeks. Last time, he left empty-handed after asking Health and Human Services Department to renew more than $1 billion in federal matching funds for LIP.

The administration, though, says expanding Medicaid would be a more effective way to ensure that more than 800,000 of Florida’s poorest residents have access to care. It does not want funding streams such as LIP to pick up costs that Medicaid expansion might cover.

Mr. Scott says he is being threatened into embracing Obamacare, a law that Republicans loathe. He’s sued the administration and, on Tuesday, he met with Mr. Upton, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and 15 Republicans in Florida’s congressional delegation.

It’s unclear what congressional Republicans can do except highlight what Mr. Scott consider to be unlawful arm-twisting.

The Affordable Care Act called on states to extend the health program to those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Florida and 20 other states have resisted, even though the federal government picks up all of the tab through 2016 and 90 percent of it by 2020 and beyond.

Mr. Scott said the administration is violating a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that upheld Obamacare, but also said the government couldn’t threaten to withhold funds as a cudgel to force states to expand Medicaid.

“This is the Sopranos,” Mr. Scott said, referring to the tactics of the famous TV mob family. “This is just another example of federal overreach. It’s no different than [President Obama’s] executive orders where he thinks he can, you know, dictate things instead of going through Congress.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has approved the LIP program on three occasions since 2005. But the agency says it warned Florida nearly a year ago that LIP was a trial program that likely would be phased out after June 30.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell has said that despite Mr. Scott’s assertions, her agency’s decision on LIP funding is not tied to whether a state expands Medicaid.

Mr. Scott, who once supported Medicaid expansion in his state, no longer supports the option and says his state would still face more than $1 billion in uncompensated-care costs if it did expand the government-sponsored program, notably because illegal immigrants would not qualify.

He asked HHS to respond swiftly to his LIP request because his state legislature will return to Tallahassee within weeks to finish up the state budget by June 30.

The standoff over health care funding has delayed their spending plans to date.

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