State Politics

State Sen. Bill Galvano of Bradenton: 'optimistic' about compromise on health care spending

After taking time to cool off after failed budget negotiations in the regular session, the Florida Senate floated the first potential health care compromise this week. Like most compromises, it didn't make anyone happy.

Despite the opposition, Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said he is optimistic about the plan though it's hard to predict how the federal government will react.

"We're being the more adult side of the Legislature," Galvano said. "We won't know about a compromise until we try."

The amended Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange, dubbed FHIX 2.0, would establish a state marketplace effective in January where enrollees could select plans from the private side or the medical exchange without actually being enrolled in Medicaid, though the program would use Medicaid expansion dollars.

Gov. Rick Scott immediately expressed opposition equating it to a tax increase for Floridians.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, called the plan costly and inefficient while voicing doubts the federal government would even approve.

The federal government might have an issue with another part of the plan, which says those in the FHIX mar

ketplace would also have to meet certain work requirements to qualify.

The federal government hasn't revealed its position on the potential compromise yet.

The federal government has agreed to contribute $1 billion to the Low Income Pool money, a fund that previously spent $2.1 billion per year to provide health care to low-income Floridians. Members of Scott's administration have said local governments can then get another $906 million in matching funds, which would need to be approved by the federal government.

Galvano said Scott's position was "mischaracterized," and the actual tax increase on the state would come only if no compromise was reached.

"The real tax increase would come if we didn't do anything," Galvano said. "We're open to having that (matching fund) discussion, but not on the cusp of losing this money."

The Legislature will begin a special session June 1 to settle on a budget. Negotiations failed during regular session, and if the Senate and House can't work out an agreed-upon budget by June 20, a government shutdown is possible starting July 1.

Galvano said lawmakers won't let that happen. He and Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said they would sooner agree upon a budget by the deadlines without health care included than allow a government shutdown.

That settlement would come with its own issues, and Galvano said results would still be drastic while not as bad as a government shutdown.

"Hospitals would lose dollars and hospitals would close," Galvano said. "But if we can keep existing programs funded, that's better than nothing at all."

Kate Irby, Herald online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055 or at You can follow her on Twitter @KateIrby.

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