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House plan would boost nursing home money

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – House Speaker Jose Oliva recently referred to hospitals and other health care providers as modern-day “robber barons,” but a proposed spending plan unveiled Tuesday does not propose Medicaid reductions to the providers’ bottom lines.

Introduced by House Health Care Appropriations Chairwoman MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta, the proposed budget would keep Medicaid funding for hospitals at current-year spending levels.

The proposal for the 2020-2021 fiscal year would pump an additional $44.8 million to increase rates the state pays nursing homes to care for Medicaid patients.

“The nursing center funding increase in the House budget is critical for our members as the cost of delivering high-quality care continues to rise,” Florida Health Care Association spokeswoman Kristen Knapp said in a prepared statement. “Providing the finest possible care for our frailest elders requires exceptional staff, specialized equipment and the dedication and training to meet their unique needs.”

The House proposal also would appropriate $10 million to the state Agency for Health Care Administration to help implement a Canadian drug-importation program. That is about half of the amount Gov. Ron DeSantis recommended in his proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The House, however, closely tracks DeSantis’ recommendations for spending in the Agency for Persons with Disabilities by including a $56.6 million increase for the Medicaid program known as the iBudget.

Magar said the additional funding would remove 1,600 people from a waiting list for services. The waiting list has 21,844 people on it, according to the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

The Senate is expected to release its proposed spending plan for health and human services on Wednesday. Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Chairman Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, told The News Service of Florida that his proposal would provide close to $100 million in additional funding to the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, with the hopes of reducing the waiting list for services.

The House proposal includes $38.7 billion in state and federal dollars across six health-related agencies: the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Department of Elder Affairs, the Department of Health, the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.