According to The Miami Herald, Florida’s legislature has redirected millions of dollars for low-income hospital patients in South Florida to private and faith-based hospitals. The money comes from a $1 billion pool of money given to hospitals in Florida to offset the costs of taking in uninsured and low-income patients. Traditionally, the money goes predominantly to public hospital networks, such as the Jackson Health System. This year, however, HCA and faith-based Baptist Health South Florida are receiving a greater portion of the money.
Jackson has been facing mounting financial problems due in part to the number of uninsured patients it takes in. However, according to the Florida Hospital Association, the hospital will see $20 million less than was recommended by the Lower Income Pool Council.
According to the Herald:
“The Legislature generally follows the LIP Council recommendations — but not this year. With Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders questioning the need for government-run hospitals, the Legislature applied new calculations to give more reimbursement money to non-government hospitals that provide some care for the poor.”
The article notes that the “biggest winners” from these disbursements include for-profit HCA hospitals which, “gained $23.3 million — or 83 percent more than the LIP Council recommendation, according to the FHA.” Baptist Health South Florida, a faith-based hospital system, “gained $12.8 million — 94 percent more than recommended by the council.” A spokeswoman for Baptist points to the rising cost of caring for the poor.
In the article, the leader of Gov. Rick Scott’s health care transition advisers is quoted praising the changes.
Earlier this year, Scott signed an executive order (.pdf), which called for a review of publicly funded hospitals. The order is premised on the idea that compensation from sources such as Medicaid and the Low Income Pool might not always correlate with the number of uncompensated care hospitals provide to the poor and the uninsured. One of the commission’s goals will be to come up with a funding approach in which “funds follow the patient.” The commission is set to hold its first meeting on May 27.
Lawmakers this session continued a series of moves away from funding state-run services, many of which are being shifted to private companies and nonprofits. The state legislature’s skepticism of the cost of government-run services this year has led to increasing privatization of services from Medicaid to prisons.