Gov. Rick Scott has given hospitals until Monday to provide detailed financial information that a newly created commission will use to search for answers to a health care funding stalemate that has delayed adoption of a state budget.
Scott, a former health care executive, has suggested creating a “profit-sharing” plan given the industry’s “record high profits of $3.7 billion.”
The request for eight years of hospital financial data, from 2006-2013, comes as the Low Income Pool — a $2.2 billion program — is set to expire June 30.
The federal government provides about $1.3 billion of that amount to help hospitals such as Halifax Health and Bert Fish medical centers treat uninsured patients.
“We are unfortunately in this position because the federal government has ended their funding of Florida’s Low Income Pool (LIP) program,” Scott wrote in a letter to hospital executives. “We are now anticipating that we will have a state budget that does not include any LIP funds because the Obama Administration has elected to terminate it.”
Federal officials say they told Scott last summer that the LIP program would not be renewed in its current form, but Scott’s administration did not submit a formal renewal request for LIP funding until late April.
The federal review of the proposal may not be complete by the state’s July 1 deadline to adopt a budget.
Scott’s request for eight years of hospital financial data includes how much hospitals are spending on lobbyist fees, profits, executive compensation and the average daily cost of caring for patients.
A similar request is being made of insurance companies and HMO’s that also receive taxpayer funding for health care services.
The newly appointed, nine-member Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding will examine the data. It will also be posted on the panel’s website — healthandhospitalcommission.com.
Halifax Health — the area’s largest safety-net provider — is prepared to open its books, said Deanna Schaeffer, government affairs officer for the 678-bed public hospital system.
“We have no problem with being transparent and showing the value of what it is we provide to our community,” she said.
Halifax Health “came out looking very favorable” during a state review of public hospitals and hospital taxing districts four years ago, Schaeffer said.
Florida Hospital is hopeful “the commission will take an objective look at all the elements of this complex issue,” said Lindsay Rew, a spokeswoman for the not-for-profit health system’s five medical centers in Volusia and Flagler counties.
“Florida Hospital welcomes the opportunity to share the complete story of all the benefits our not-for-profit hospitals provide to the communities they serve,” she said.
Scott has also filed suit against the federal government, accusing it of trying to “coerce” the state into expanding its Medicaid program to cover an additional 800,000 poor Floridians.
In a statement, Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell said Florida’s Medicaid proposal “falls short.”
Burwell wants Florida to accept federal funds available to expand Medicaid, while also saying “whether a state receives federal funding for an uncompensated care pool is not dependent on whether it expands Medicaid.”
The Legislature is headed toward a 20-day special session beginning June 1 to try to resolve a $4 billion impasse over a new state budget, which largely revolves around health care funding and the Senate’s plan for Medicaid expansion, which is adamantly opposed by Scott and the House.
Medical centers in Volusia and Flagler counties are enjoying varying levels of profitability, according to hospital financial data obtained by The News-Journal through a public records request.
Scott used these figures during closed-door discussions with state senators.
Florida Hospital Flagler in Palm Coast had a 17.28 percent operating margin in 2013 — the highest in the region — taking in $20.7 million more in revenues over expenses.
At the other end of the spectrum, Bert Fish Medical Center, a 112-bed taxpayer-supported hospital in New Smyrna Beach, recorded a loss of $11.5 million on operations in the 2014 fiscal year. The hospital only broke even when factoring in the tax support it receives from the Southeast Volusia Hospital District.
Halifax Health recorded a 2.93 percent operating margin, making $12.2 million through operations.
Schaeffer said, “Halifax is by no means raking in big profits.”
Bert Fish’s overseers are working to merge with Florida Hospital to ensure the hospital’s long-term viability. A solution must be found to ensure the state doesn’t lose federal funds vital to supporting large safety-net hospitals such as Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and UF Health Jacksonville, said Bert Fish CEO Steve Harrell.
“There is going to have to be some resolution,” Harrell said. “It’s a hit that can’t be absorbed.”
The Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding will hold its first meeting Wednesday in Tallahassee.
Original article here.