Florida Counties Send Scott Video Letter Urging Veto
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The Florida Association of Counties calls it a "video-letter," but it looks and sounds more like a campaign ad.
The 60-second message urges Gov. Rick Scott to veto a bill that would require counties to pay more into the Medicaid system including about $300 million in disputed past-due payments the video blames on state accounting errors.
Scott spokesman Lane Wright said on Friday that the governor hasn't yet made a decision on the bill.
Wright also was unsure whether Scott, who was traveling Friday, had seen the video letter, apparently the first of its kind sent to him.
The video, also posted on the association's website, opens by showing a couple standing beside a foreclosure sign in front of their home and closes with the word "VETO" in large capital letters.
A female announcer ominously says the bill would increase local taxes hundreds of millions of dollars by making counties pay for mistakes by the state's electronic Medicaid billing system. They include sending the same bill 15 times and charging for an out-of-state patient, she says.
"It's politics as usual in Tallahassee," the announcer states. "Veto the politics."
Counties are required to pay a share of the costs for their residents who receive health care through the state-federal program that covers low-income and disabled patients.
Besides the video, the association sent Scott a written letter Thursday. It says the measure would bill counties an extra $77 million in the next budget year as a result of the billing errors.
"Without your veto, we fear HB 5301 will serve little more than a backdoor tax hike on Florida taxpayers - passing the costs of a grossly inefficient billing system onto Floridians in the form of a newly unfunded mandate," wrote Christopher Holley, the association's executive director.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, disputed those claims during floor debate last Friday, when the chamber narrowly passed the bill 23-17. It cleared the House earlier that day 73-36.
Alexander said counties were paying 90 percent of what they owed until about four years ago, but the payment rate is now down to 60 percent. He said nothing changed in the data system to cause such a steep drop. He attributed it to counties simply refusing to pay their bills because of tough economic times.
"I truly believe money is due," Alexander said. "We've also got to have the revenues to make our budgets work."
Alexander noted the counties would have five years to repay 85 percent of the past-due funds. Lawmakers also are working with Scott's office and the Agency for Health Care Administration, which oversees the Medicaid system, to work out any kinks in the billing system, he said.
The bill also drew support because it includes other provisions such as limiting non-pregnant Medicaid patients to six emergency room visits per year, which is expected to save the state $47 million, and allowing thousands of children of low-income state employees to participate in the Kidcare health insurance program.
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