It’s a start. After dissolving the annual legislative session last week over a budget and health care impasse, House and Senate leaders have now agreed on one thing: the dates of the special session to finish their work.
In a joint press release issued Wednesday, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner announced that they will convene a “tentatively scheduled” special session on Monday, June 1, and conclude it on Saturday, June 20.
Lawmakers must return to the state capital to finish the budget by June 30 and, integral to that decision is addressing the question of how much federal government the state can expect to get to provide hospital compensation for charity care under the Low Income Pool program (LIP).
Disagreement over how to handle that money, which the federal government is phasing out, led to the stalemate. The Senate leaders want to expand Medicaid and draw down federal money to compenstate for the loss of LIP money in the future. The House leadership refuses to expand Medicaid and prefers to rely on the LIP money for another year.
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Still unresolved is the scope of the session. “A proclamation will be issued in the near future,’’ the statement said.
The agreement on the session dates also avoids having Gov. Rick Scott call the session, and dictate the terms. Scott came away empty-handed Wednesday following a meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell on Wednesday. He had traveled to Washington to remind her of the state’s budgetary deadline and asked her to approve the state’s proposal for LIP funding.
“We want the HHS Secretary to approve our LIP waiver,’’ Scott said in a statement. “That is what we asked her to do today. I hope we made some progress, but we will only have real resolution on this when we get their official approval. We need that approval immediately so we can start a special session and pass a budget.”
Burwell responded that the state’s proposal for the LIP waiver is inadequate, hinted that the state’s Medicaid reimbursement rates are too low, and said the state is expecting more LIP money than it’s going to get.