Medicaid expansion once again took center stage in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday when the committee took up several amendments sponsored by Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, to the Senate’s health care proposal.
One of Galvano’s “fixes” to FHIX would have the program “expire” at the end of a fiscal year if several instances occurred -- including an expiration if the federal match contribution level dips below 90 percent.
Galvano’s second amendment would clarify the eligibility requirements for the FHIX plan, aiming to ensure that job-seeking enrollees were participating in the CareerSource program.
Part of the meeting focused on the ins and outs of the FHIX 2.0 proposal, with the committee hearing an in-depth analysis from legislative economist Amy Baker on the exact fiscal impact the health care program would have on Florida over the next 10 years.
According to Baker’s estimates, the FHIX plan will generate $1.1 billion in new state revenue plus $16 billion from the federal government.
But the meeting took a quick turn for the dramatic when committee members realized a representative from the governor’s Agency for Health Care Administration failed to show up to testify.
Senators said they were “flabberghasted” and “disappointed” no one from Scott’s agency turned out to the meeting despite being invited to attend and listen to their dialogue over the controversial health-care issue.
Over an hour later, AHCA deputy director Justin Senior finally arrived at the meeting. Senior blamed his lateness on account of only being given 15 minutes notice to show up to the meeting. On Monday, Senior made an appearance at the House Health and Human Services committee meeting.
Instead of being pleased that Senior decided to show up on Tuesday, senators were visibly irritated over his late arrival, seemingly attributing a failure to appear as a result of AHCA favoring the House over the Senate.
“Could politics have entered into this?” Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville asked.
“[Neither] your agency, neither your boss has been helpful to this process at all. We had no idea that you were all of a sudden going to inject yourself in this discussion,” said Senate Appropriations Chair Tom Lee, R-Brandon. “You need to rethink your priorities. You know where you’re supposed to be today. It’s right here in this committee room.”
Lee also accused Senior of bringing "nothing but confusion" to Tuesday's meeting.
Sen. Gaetz grilled Senior over whether the agency knew a year ago that the Low Income Pool funding would be significantly decreased. Gaetz, who seemed to be looking for a simple “yes” or “no” answer, became frustrated when Senior avoided answering the question.
“Our hope from the beginning was to preserve as much low-income pool funding as possible,” Senior told the committee.
Senior also denied being influenced by Gov. Scott or AHCA officials to side with the House and make it more difficult for Floridians to obtain health insurance.
Hospital representatives praised the FHIX program, saying it was indicative of building a solution for Florida’s needy.
“You have walked a mile along a long bridge,” said Mark Delegal, Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida lobbyist. “We are proud to have walked with you.”
The FHIX bill sponsor, Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, said the legislation was a good solution going forward to protect against the storm of Medicaid expansion.
"We know it's coming again next year, so just like hurricane season, we need to plan," said the bill's sponsor Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach. "I've been told a failure to plan is a plan to fail ... Florida is counting on us."
The bill and its amendments passed unanimously and will head to the House Friday, though committee members conceded the legislation was doomed since it’s not likely the bill will gather enough votes in the more conservative chamber for it to pass.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen