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Health Care

LIP Service: Hearings On How To Pay For The Uninsured Come To South Florida

Tim Padgett

How will Florida keep paying healthcare costs for its poor and uninsured? That issue has brought the state legislative session to a halt. But it’s getting public hearings this week. On Thursday, the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration brought the discussion to Doral - and South Floridians are especially anxious.

Florida’s $2 billion low-income pool – or LIP – is a joint federal-state program that reimburses hospitals for treating uninsured patients. The feds want the state to end LIP and instead expand access to Medicaid for some 850,000 Floridians under Obamacare.

The Legislature is deadlocked over the matter. But with or without Medicaid expansion, state health officials argue LIP should be preserved. South Florida has the state’s highest concentration of uninsured. So at the Doral hearing, healthcare bosses like Jackson Health System President Carlos Migoya said they too support keeping LIP.

“Since Medicaid only reimburses less than half of the actual cost," said Migoya, "Jackson will be forced to eliminate and reduce programs and services if LIP is not renewed or replaced.”

But Miriam Harmatz, the senior health attorney for the non-profit Florida Legal Services Inc., said  Medicaid expansion has to be part of the plan.

“To think we have an accessible safety net that can really serve the underinsured with LIP – and again even double or triple or quadruple LIP – is a myth,” Harmatz said.

The LIP hearings started Wednesday in Orlando and will finish Friday in Tallahassee.