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Hospitals to See Rate Cut

House and Senate budget-writers agreed Sunday to cut hospital reimbursement rates by 7 percent, while offering Miami’s financially-strapped Jackson Memorial Hospital some hope if more federal Medicaid money comes to Florida.

The state rate cut to hospitals is the latest in a series over the past three years that will have slashed payments by roughly 20 percent to facilities treating low-income patients. Lawmakers, however, agreed Sunday to exempt All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg and Miami’s Children’s Hospital from the latest round of reductions.

As Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, and his House counterpart, Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, worked to close out negotiations between them by 5 p.m. Sunday, the House also rolled out a sweeping plan aimed at steering more dollars to Jackson Memorial Hospital and Gainesville’s Shands Hospital.

The House offered two approaches to budget “proviso” language covering the state’s “low-income pool,” for hospitals that serve a high percentage of uninsured and low-income patients.

The two approaches effectively steer funding based on whether Congress approves extending for six months enhanced Medicaid spending that could bring Florida an additional $880 million. Finding extra cash for Jackson, which faces a $230 million budget deficit and threats of wholesale layoffs, has been especially important for Rivera, a candidate for Congress in Miami-Dade County.

Still, Rivera’s side also agreed Sunday to accept a $7.5 million Senate offer to finance a dozen mental health, substance abuse and other local projects tucked into the budget by House members, including several programs in Miami-Dade. The $7.5 million is about half the $13.6 million earlier sought by the House.

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