Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami among the hospitals that could face significant financial hardship if state lawmakers don't expand Medicaid. (Photo by Phillip Pessar via Creative Commons)

Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami is among the hospitals that could face significant financial hardship if state lawmakers don’t expand Medicaid. (Photo by Phillip Pessar via Creative Commons)

By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

Florida hospitals treating the state’s large uninsured population face losing billions of dollars in federal funding if state lawmakers continue to refuse expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The Miami Herald recently reported on a new study from Florida Legal Services, a nonprofit legal advocate for the low-income Floridians.

According to the Herald,

The financial impact would be felt most acutely by so-called “safety net” hospitals statewide, and in Miami-Dade, particularly by the taxpayer-owned Jackson Health System, according to Florida Legal, which estimated that Jackson could lose more than $570 million a year.

…But if state legislators were to accept the government’s offer to spend about $5 billion a year to expand Medicaid to an estimated 760,000 more Floridians, the new revenue would more than offset the anticipated loss of federal funding for hospitals that treat many uninsured patients, Florida Legal reports.

State lawmakers have been warned about this very issue for years now.

Under ACA, the federal government intends to eliminate a pool of money set aside for hospitals across the country that treat low-income people without health insurance. Because the law was written anticipating that everyone in the country would have health insurance, there was going to be no need for that large pool of federal money once the law was fully in effect.

However, because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could decide whether or not to implement a key part of the law that extends Medicaid to a large portion of low-income and uninsured adults in the U.S., hospitals in states without the expansion could be losing the funding while still having to treat this same population.

Florida’s GOP-led Legislature has been largely opposed to expanding Medicaid. Furthermore, all the GOP gains in the state could solidify the unlikeliness of Medicaid expansion in the state.

And because Florida has one of the largest uninsured populations in the country, this means this could greatly affect a whole slew of hospitals in the state.

The Herald reports,

That agreement calls for the elimination of about $1.8 billion a year in statewide funding through the Low Income Pool program (LIP) starting on June 30, 2015.

The federal funding cuts are scheduled to occur regardless of the Florida Legislature’s actions on Medicaid, according to Florida Legal’s report. For Medicaid expansion to occur in Florida, the legislature would have to approve a Medicaid expansion bill and Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, would have to sign it.

Florida Democrats and some Senate Republicans have said the state ought to accept the federal money to expand the program, including Sen. Rene Garcia, a Miami-Dade Republican.

Even though GOP leaders in the Florida House have been staunchly opposed to any form of Medicaid expansion, leaders in the Florida Senate have been open to accepting federal funds to offer private insurance to those who qualify.

However, hospital administrators in the state aren’t relying solely on their ability to persuade the Legislature to change their minds. According to the Herald, “state Medicaid administrators, hospital representatives and others have been meeting with CMS officials in an effort to persuade the federal government to extend the LIP program beyond June.”