Business Health Care Battle

Scott undermines Senate health care plan

June 3, 2015

Senate Appropriations Committee is tired of the games the Scott administration is playing in the legislative battle over health care.

On Monday, state Medicaid director Justin Senior appeared before the House Health & Human Services Committee. She told the lawmakers the question of whether more or fewer people would have insurance if the Senate plan was approved “would be a very close call.”

The Senate has touted the fact that as many as 800,000 Floridians would meet income limits for health care under the plan, though work requirements likely mean that only 400,000 to 500,000 people would actually be eligible.

Speaking to the Senate, Senior reiterated his doubts about whether the program could meet its goals.

“So, as I said to the House yesterday, it is uncertain whether the net effect of this would be a reduction in the uninsurance rate, or an increase,” he said.

“Well, it seems to me that you brought nothing but confusion, then,” shot back Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon. “Because you don’t know anything. You just bring questions and you don’t know what you don’t know, but you’re going to offer it up as testimony nonetheless. You’re not much help, are you?”

Senators also slammed Senior for showing up to the meeting late, and only after several pointedly noted the absence of anybody from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. Some held out the prospect of denying confirmation to agency Secretary Liz Dudek, who must get Senate approval by 2016 to keep her job, or issuing a subpoena.

Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said the agency had only recently produced an analysis of the Senate bill — an updated version of an earlier proposal — despite being asked for comments 10 days ago.

“You chose not to be responsive, you chose instead to go to the House hearing yesterday, without giving the Senate any information about input and your analysis on the Senate bill, and cast all sorts of aspersions on the Senate bill, and you sort of had to be nudged into coming here today at all,” Gaetz said. “Why is that the case?”

Senior said the agency’s staff worked “very hard” to produce an analysis of the bill, which was finished Monday, and said he wasn’t invited to the Senate meeting until Tuesday morning.

“Unfortunately, I was only asked about 14 minutes before it began, and I had a prior obligation,” Senior said. “I made it as soon as I could, and I apologize that I couldn’t get here sooner.”

The lack of an invitation didn’t satisfy Lee, who said the agency should have planned to have someone at a meeting dealing with its responsibilities.

“To suggest here today that you needed some invitation here, that we had some obligation to invite you into a discussion that you have refused to participate in is disingenuous,” Lee said, his voice rising. “And I will listen to all this gobbledy-gook with respect to your policy and subject area, but I won’t listen to it with respect to this process. I have been around here too long.”

After the meeting, Lee suggested that AHCA officials, who answer to Scott, and the House were joining forces to undermine the Senate’s plan for the so-called Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange, or FHIX.

“(The officials) want to hide behind an invitation and, truly, they’re doing the bidding of our colleagues in the House of Representatives,” Lee told reporters. “That’s their role in this process. And not just to own up to it and be honest about it, to me is like, ‘Be a man, and stand up here and be truthful about what it is you’re doing. It’s OK. We get that we’re trying to do policy here, we’ve got other people trying to do politics, and we’re going to try to do our best to advance some solutions.'”

The committee unanimously approved the FHIX bill after trying to make another concession to the House. Under an amendment offered by Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, the plan would expire on July 1, 2018, unless it gets renewed by the Legislature.

Source: The News Service of Florida

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