Healthcare Commission Targets Medicaid Costs, Pushes For More Hospital Info

May 27, 2015

Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding
Credit Agency For Healthcare Administration

Governor Rick Scott’s hospital finance group and the state’s healthcare agency have released the names of hospitals that haven’t responded to the group’s requests for information. The move comes amid an increasingly bitter debate over the future of healthcare funding in Florida.

Only 18 Florida hospitals have given the Governor’s healthcare finance commission the data they were looking for. More than 130 others have not. And Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong says the state values hospitals, but continues to press them for more information about how and where they spend money.

“This is really a conversation that’s inclusive of our hospital leadership and I remain hopeful that our latest call to hospitals to complete our survey information will indeed be heeded so we can have complete information to further this discussion," he said.

Armstrong is serving on Governor Rick Scott’s healthcare and hospital funding commission. In a letter sent to the state and the commission, the Florida Hospital Association repeats its position that the state already has most of the information it’s requested. The FHA is also concerned the turnaround time is too quick to cover data requests that in some cases, span a decade.  Recently, FHA's president said hospitals welcome the questions of the commission.

“There’s nothing wrong with that kind of transparency and we welcome it. It is not related to whether the sate moves forward with coverage and expanding its Medicaid coverage issues," said FHA President Bruce Rueben.

But Medicaid is part of the conversation. The government funded insurance program for the poor is at the center of a state budget impasse. The House and Governor Rick Scott are opposed to pulling down more federal dollars to add people to the program under the Affordable Care Act. The Senate wants to use those federal funds to get more uninsured people covered and the hospitals have sided with the Senate. During this week’s hospital finance meeting micro-surgeon Jason Rosenberg noted about a quarter of the state budget is spent on healthcare, and he doesn’t believe adding more money is the right answer.

“So we should deny our citizens the right to education by consuming more and more money with more expensive healthcare? And you would come in public comment and say 'no'," he said. "We hear you, we’re trying to get to the same result—so understand we’re working together on the same side, we’re just trying to do that efficiently.”

The House has unveiled several healthcare-related bills to be considered in the upcoming special session. Among them: a plan to let some highly-trained nurses treat patients, and a possible roll-back on hospital permitting regulations. Agency For Healthcare Administration Liz Dudek says she doesn't believe  the regulations, called Certificate of Need, will be a major factor in upcoming talks, but expects the issue will be a factor in the 2016 lawmaking session.

Lawmakers also plan to take up Medicaid Expansion and address a potential $1 billion gap in a separate program that reimburses hospitals for treating uninsured patients. Some hospitals say if nothing is done to make up the loss they could close.