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Injunction Request Withdrawn In Healthcare Lawsuit

Photo via Flickr// Phalinn Ooi

Pointing to a budget agreement reached by lawmakers, Governor Rick Scott's attorneys withdrew a request for a preliminary injunction in a legal battle with the Obama administration about health care funding.

Upon receipt of the filing, U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers canceled Friday's scheduled hearing.

According to a notice filed in federal court in Pensacola, Scott's attorneys wrote that the lawsuit would continue because the state and federal governments have not agreed on a broader resolution of the Low Income Pool issue.

The Governor wants the feds to extend LIP, but the Obama administration and the hospitals want Medicaid to cover more than 800,000 low-income Floridians.

“I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that we have affordable health care, that people have access to health care,” said Scott. “But what I’m not going to do is put our state in position that I have to raise somebody’s taxes because the federal government has a program that they won’t work with our state on.”

The Governor spoke in Washington, D.C. last month, after meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell. She had said HHS stands ready to help states in expanding Medicaid, adding that the issue could be resolved, if Florida takes the money offered under Obamacare for its expansion.

“Our belief is that your health care shouldn’t be caught up in red tape, and it shouldn’t put your family in the red,” Burwell said. “We want to join you in moving beyond the back and forth that too often characterizes our national debate, and we can do it together.”

But Scott has balked at that, believing instead that legal precedent is on his side. The lawsuit was filed April 28, amid a state budget impasse that stemmed in part from the future of the LIP program. Attorney General Pam Bondi said that filing in Pensacola gives them a sort of home-field advantage.

“That’s the channel in which the Affordable Care Act came through,” said Bondi. “Those are the courts that ruled that it is unconstitutional. I kept saying ‘We did not lose this case.’ We won on the fact that you cannot force, or coerce a state into Medicaid expansion.”

In 2011, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola ruled that the individual mandate provision of the ACA violated the Constitution by regulating economic inactivity. He later issued a stay to his January ruling, allowing implementation to proceed while its constitutionality was weighed.

After three more rulings by federal judges, two against and one for ACA, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Obamacare in June, 2012.

LIP pays hospitals to help cover the costs of uninsured patients. While the state will receive LIP money for the upcoming fiscal year, it will be a reduced amount from this year's nearly $2.2 billion. The Legislature, meeting in special session, has set aside $1 billion in state general revenue to help offset the reduction.

LIP is set to expire at the end of this month, but attorneys for HHS say the agency will not deny an extension based on the state’s failure to expand its Medicaid program, adding that HHS has reached a preliminary conclusion that LIP funding can be approved for the next two years.