May 20, 2017
FHA Releases 2017 Legislative Summary
It was clear before the start of the 2017 Legislative Session that Florida's hospitals were facing significant funding challenges. The Governor, House of Representatives and Senate all had cuts to the Medicaid program in their proposed budgets. The Governor's announcement of the federal commitment to fund a $1.5 billion Low Income Pool (LIP) in early April offered lawmakers the opportunity to deepen the cuts with the promise that LIP would offset the worst consequences. In the end, funding to Florida's hospitals was cut by $521 million. At the end of May 2017, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Agency for Health Care Administration are still negotiating the final LIP terms and conditions, which will determine the amount and distribution of the pool. These are to be included in the renewal of Florida's 1115 Medicaid Waiver set to expire on June 30, 2017. While the regulatory outlook was just as challenging, Florida's hospitals were much more successful. Proposals to deregulate Florida's trauma system, certificate of need (CON) process and changes to Workers' Compensation and Personal Injury Protection (PIP) legislation were just a few of the regulatory proposals considered by the Legislature.
Health Care Policies
Efforts to deregulate Florida's trauma system and eliminate the CON program were again front and center in legislative discussions. The Florida Hospital Association (FHA) made the case that CON elimination would have undermined the ability of hospitals to serve communities with high numbers of uninsured and underinsured patients. FHA members also provided compelling testimony about the importance of a thoughtful approach to access to trauma services and its impact on quality and patient safety. Attempts to expand overnight stays in Ambulatory Surgical Centers, amend Workers' Compensation law and repeal of PIP were all defeated. No health care policy legislation that FHA opposed passed.
Some Cuts Won't Heal
In preparation for the 2017 Session, FHA launched the Some Cuts Won't Heal campaign to focus the conversation on those who would be most impacted by cuts to the Medicaid program - low income children, pregnant women, elderly and disabled people. Through an aggressive social and traditional media campaign, the stories of patients, like Lakota Lockhart and Chris Howell, and frontline caregivers were shared across the state to bring more attention to this critical issue. Throughout Session nurses, caregivers and health care professionals traveled to Tallahassee to meet with legislators, share their stories and discuss the importance of a fully funded Medicaid program for their patients and communities.
While we do not yet know the full extent Medicaid cuts will have on hospitals, patients or the economy, we do know that the consequences will be felt in communities across our state. Cuts to hospital payments will again be up for discussion in the coming months. Between now and when the 2018 Legislative Session begins in January, it is critical that Florida's hospitals make clear the true impacts of further cuts to the program. While many challenges are ahead, thanks to the dedication and hard work of our caregivers and hospital teams, we will continue to our mission to provide the highest quality of care to all Floridians who rely on us 24 hours a day, seven days a week.