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MIAMI (CBSMiami/NSF) – Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday tried to increase pressure on the federal government to continue funding for a program that hospitals say is critical to providing care to low-income and uninsured patients.

Scott wrote a letter to President Obama, saying he wouldn’t support the state taking over funding of the Low Income Pool program.

“Should your administration decline to accept a new LIP model and therefore terminate this program, I will not support using any state funds to backfill this federal program,” Scott wrote. “Florida taxpayers fund our federal government and deserve to get a return on their investment.”

The Low Income Pool program, which is scheduled to end June 30, has funneled about $1 billion a year to hospitals and other health providers that serve large numbers of low-income and uninsured people.

The state Agency for Health Care Administration and Obama administration have been negotiating behind the scenes about a possible extension of the program, though it is widely acknowledged that changes would be made. The issue is a major budget concern for Scott and lawmakers during this spring’s legislative session.

While the program has sent about $1 billion a year to hospitals and other health providers, the budget number jumped to more than $2 billion this year, at least in part because other program funding was shifted into it.

“This federal matching program provides federal funds that Florida hospitals have depended on to pay for the state’s most vulnerable residents,” Scott wrote in the letter to Obama. “Termination of the federal matching participation would severely hamper future efforts to improve health care services for low income individuals who rely on a certain predictability of funding.”

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

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