Orlando Hospitals Face Potential Funding Slash but Florida Legislature Can Avert Crisis

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 27, 2015

ORLANDO– Today, Florida Legal Services (FLS) and the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association released a report explaining how scheduled funding cuts to Orange County health care providers will drastically limit access to care for uninsured adults in the County. The report, which can be found at http://www.communityjusticefls.org/medicaid/,also explains how federal funding to cover more uninsured residents through Medicaid could more than offset anticipated cuts in federal funding.

Presently, there are two Florida Medicaid programs, the Low Income Pool (LIP) and the Disproportionate Share Hospital Program (DSH), which help fund providers serving low-income uninsured individuals. In 2014-15 Florida will receive approximately $2 billion in LIP funding, with over $ 50 million going to Orange County health care providers, including both hospitals and health centers. Additionally, Florida will receive approximately $240 million in DSH funding, with over $ 8 million going to Orlando area hospitals.

However, both programs are scheduled to be significantly reduced. LIP was established as part of Florida’s Medicaid “Waiver,” moving recipients to a managed care system. While the “Waiver” has been extended, LIP is scheduled end on June 30 and the state is trying to negotiate an extension. Additionally, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), DSH will be drastically reduced. The report also discusses the more than 760,000 Floridians, (including over 50,000 in Orange County), who are in the “coverage gap.” These individuals make too little money to get help buying insurance in federal marketplace. And because they do not qualify for Florida’s extremely restrictive Medicaid program, most rely on Orlando Health and Florida Hospital for specialty and hospital care.

Finally, the reports explain that the Florida Legislature can avert this crisis by accepting federal funding to expand access to health care for low-income uninsured adults. This new funding would more than offset the imminent LIP cut. While Orange County providers are scheduled to lose over $50 million in LIP funding this June, they will gain approximately $ 380 billion /year with expansion funding.

According to Miriam Harmatz, Senior Health Attorney at FLS and co-author of the report, “low income uninsured Floridians need the Legislature to accept federal funding for their coverage. Even if some form of LIP continues—there is simply not enough money in the pool to provide real health insurance, including preventive care, for our clients. We understand that some people believe that the federal agency (CMS) will ultimately change their mind about ending LIP. But, the current terms of the waiver state that LIP ends June 30, 2015 and CMS officials have been clear that there is no way that LIP will continue in its present form. That has huge implications for low income people who need health care–not to mention the economic well being of our communities and essential health care providers. 

“Beginning next week, our elected officials have the opportunity to ensure that our critical community hospitals like Orlando Health and Florida Hospital remain intact and that our clients and their constituents have access to health care,” says Mary Anne DePetrillo, Director of the Legal Aid society of the OCBA.