The federal government's demand that Florida hospitals refund $267 million in overpayments for treating the poor asks for too much too soon. The government wants all of its money back this year. But it should honor hospitals' requests to spread the payments out over time. Anything less is political gamesmanship that creates an unnecessary crisis for hospitals.
Florida's refusal to expand Medicaid riled the Obama administration and was a bad decision that left more than 800,000 Floridians without health insurance. But while the state rebuffed the federal government with one hand, it used the other to request more money from Medicaid Low Income Pool payments made to hospitals. The state's current appropriation is $1 billion, but an audit turned up $267 million in overpayments to Florida hospitals over an eight-year period.
The federal government has a legitimate claim to the overpayments, and Florida hospitals should pay it all back. But requiring repayment in a single year reeks of punishment and will place undue burdens on some hospitals that have struggled in recent years to regain profitability. Leaders in Tallahassee and Washington should work together to find a compromise that does not seem punitive. Playing politics with health care is unseemly regardless of which political party or level of government is in the wrong.