Legislative panel rejects federal cash for nursing home effortby John Kennedy | June 24th, 2011
A legislative panel rejected a federal grant that could have brought Florida $35.7 million over the next five years to help patients move from nursing homes to community care, warning it could lead to state costs lawmakers don’t want to shoulder.
The Legislative Budget Commission, a 14-member panel authorized to make mid-year budget adjustments, voted 8-6 against giving state health care officials authority to accept $2 million in federal funds to plan for the program. A majority from both the House and Senate members was needed for approval, and House members dug-in against the spending.
Some leading Republican lawmakers said the program duplicated state efforts underway and could force the Legislature to pick up the tab for costs once the grant expired.
“I realize these are federal dollars, but they’re still taxpayer dollars,” said House budget chair Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring.
House and Senate Democrats on the panel voted in favor of the grant. And even a pair of prominent Republicans, Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, and Senate Health and Human Services budget chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, were on the losing side, hinting they thought accepting the grant was worthwhile.
House HHS budget chief Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, said Florida was already doing a good job getting nursing home patients out of costly facilities and back home or with relatives, when appropriate. Since 2009, House officials said the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration with other agencies has moved 1,900 patients to community services — and no patients who wanted to move were denied.
“It’s unnecessary, duplicative, and when you couple that with an estimated $6 million in administrative costs for the program…I would argue that it’s always dangerous to accept federal money,” Schenck said.
Florida is one of 13 states awarded what the federal government called a demonstration grant for the program. The money comes from Congress’ federal health care overhaul, which the state is suing to have overturned. The House earlier this year blocked Senate efforts to include funding to launch the program in the state budget.