Mayor Brown asks HHS to talk directly with Jacksonville hospitals


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mayor Alvin Brown is asking U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to negotiate directly with his city if a state showdown with the federal government endangers funding for the Low Income Pool, or LIP, program.

In a letter dated Wednesday, Brown emphasized the importance of LIP to UF Health Jacksonville, a major component of the area's health-care system. LIP provides money to hospitals and other medical providers that care for large numbers of low-income patients.

"Jacksonville and other communities with safety-net hospitals must not be held hostage by the actions or inactions of decision-makers in Tallahassee. ... If our state government cannot or will not act, the city of Jacksonville and other local governments should have the opportunity to bypass Tallahassee and work directly with the federal government to find innovative LIP and Medicaid solutions," wrote Brown, who is running for re-election in Tuesday's municipal elections.

The future of the $2.2 billion LIP program has become ensnared in a debate over whether to use Medicaid expansion funds to help low-income Floridians purchase private insurance.

Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott, who opposes any plan drawing on Medicaid expansion money, released a letter to Burwell dated Tuesday requesting information for a commission he's set up to consider health-care funding in the state. That commission has scheduled its first meeting for May 20 in Tallahassee.