- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Days after he sued them, Florida Gov. Rick Scott sat down with administration officials Wednesday and pleaded with them to stop pushing Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion on him, while also asking them to keep funding a different program that helps hospitals care for the poor.

Mr. Scott left Washington empty handed, though, prolonging a standoff that’s delayed state budget talks and roiled Obamacare politics at large.

“We don’t have a resolution,” Mr. Scott told reporters on a street corner near Capitol Hill.

The Republican governor, in an hour-long sit-down with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, told her he’d rather have the administration pay more than $1 billion to extend the Low Income Pool (LIP) program, which reimburses hospitals that treat the poor and uninsured, instead of Florida expanding its Medicaid rolls.

Mr. Scott said he needs a quick answer to his request because his state legislature will return to Tallahassee within weeks to finish up the state budget by June 30.

But HHS says it’s phasing out the LIP, and said it’s not a matter of picking that program or Medicaid.

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The agency is still mulling Florida’s request, yet signaled Wednesday it falls short of their criteria. It does not think uncompensated care pools should be picking up costs that would be covered under Medicaid expansion, which Mrs. Burwell described as “an important element to providing access to quality health care and reducing hospital costs that are typically passed on to taxpayers.”

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 sued HHS last week over the issue, saying he felt the administration was bringing undue pressure to try to push him to expand Medicaid to more than 800,000 residents by canceling the LIP.

The governor 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.

Mr. Scott retained former U.S. Solicitor Paul D. Clement, the attorney who twice fought Obamacare before the Supreme Court, and Republican governors Greg Abbott of Texas and Sam Brownback of Kansas have agreed to back him in federal court.

HHS says Florida knew for nearly a year that the LIP was a demonstration program that could go away, although Mr. Scott maintains the administration is strong-arming him into a pro-Obamacare stance.

“Again, the federal government shouldn’t be trying to coerce us to expand Obamacare [by using] an existing program that they started and they should continue to fund,” he said.

Mr. Scott surprised observers by supporting Medicaid expansion in 2013, despite his clear distaste for the health law overall, but Republican lawmakers in his legislature thwarted his plans.

The governor this year said he no longer supports expansion, saying he doubts Washington will pay its full share. If the federal government is willing to yank away the LIP funding, he argued there’s little to stop them from doing the same with its expansion funding.

“Would you do business with someone like that?” he said. “No, you wouldn’t.”

The issue split the Republican-controlled legislature in Tallahassee during budget talks this year — the Senate favored Medicaid expansion, while the House did not.

Mr. Scott said if he does not get a swift answer on LIP, the state will resort to a base budget that locks in current funding levels.

“We’re in a time crunch,” he said.

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