TALLAHASSEE—Today, the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) and Florida Legal Services (FLS) filed a “friend of the court” brief in Scott v. Burwell, on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Florida, Florida Community Health Action Information Network (CHAIN), and FLS. The amicus brief argues in support of HHS Secretary Burwell’s clear authority to have discretion on whether to deny the continued experimental state Low Income Pool.
“Florida’s highest officials have filed a lawsuit utterly lacking in legal merit. This case is not about illegal coercion or any other genuine legal claim,” said Jane Perkins, NHeLP legal director and co-counsel. “Rather, this lawsuit reflects political concerns and sentiments about the role of Medicaid in covering low-income, uninsured Floridians and appears to be an attempt by Florida officials to improve their negotiating posture with the federal government.”
The case filed by Florida Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, charges the Obama Administration with illegally coercing them by refusing to maintain funding beyond the agreed-upon cut-off date for the state’s Low Income Pool (LIP). They are asking the court for emergency relief ordering the federal government to continue funding the LIP project, which has been making subsidized payments to some of the State’s health care providers, particularly hospitals. The LIP is part of an experimental Medicaid project that Florida officials previously agreed would end on June 30, 2015.
“The Governor’s lawsuit has only proven to be an unfortunate diversion from dealing with the fact that Florida has a large number of low-income residents who lack access to affordable health care, and for whom the Low Income Pool program is not a solution–either long term or short term,” said Miriam Harmatz, FLS senior health law attorney and co-counsel.
The NHeLP/FLS brief asserts that the LIP was approved under a federal law that gives Secretary Burwell complete discretion to decide when the experiment will end. Federal approval for the LIP was for demonstration purposes and was not to function as an ongoing federal funding stream; however, ignoring the controlling federal law is what the Florida officials want. The brief also underscores that Governor Scott’s lawsuit is not properly before the court. State officials did not submit a request to the Secretary seeking reauthorization of the LIP until after filing the lawsuit, and the Secretary has not yet made a final decision on the request.
The NHeLP/FLS brief can be downloaded here.
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Since 1969, the National Health Law Program protects and advances the health rights of low income and underserved individuals. NHeLP advocates,educates and litigates at the federal and state levels.
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