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New Commission Charged with Addressing Healthcare Costs


Gov. Rick Scott's newly created Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding met for the first time on Wednesday. But hospitals have met his request for information by essentially telling him to look it up himself. That includes at least one Pensacola-area facility.

Many of the dozens of surveys returned by hospitals have five or fewer of the roughly 100 lines filled out with new information. Many referred Scott to data already on file with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

Susan Davis, President and CEO of Sacred Heart Health System, and Baptist Healthcare CEO Mark Faulkner were among those signing a letter that the Florida Hospital Association sent to the Governor. While most of the requests were fairly straightforward regarding profits, services, diagnoses and patient outcomes -- Davis says requests were also made for proprietary material.

“There was one section of the data request that we did not fill out,” said Davis. “This information’s available on the ACHA website. But he was asking about rates that we were getting from payers; and that is not something we can share.”

In an email, a spokeswoman for Scott did not directly answer whether the Governor thought the survey answers were responsive to his questions.

The Commission was formed after the Legislature failed to agree on a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Lawmakers were stymied by questions surrounding whether the federal government will extend LIP -- the Low Income Pool program, which is set to expire June 30. LIP money goes to hospitals and other medical providers in Florida, to care for patients who don’t have the means to pay.

Sacred Heart’s Susan Davis says if LIP is allowed to expire at the end of June, the impact to that not-for-profit hospital would be enormous.

“We will lose in excess of $22 million after June 30 when this expires,” Davis said. “The dollar value that comes to Sacred Heart is because we have such a high number of uninsured or Medicaid patients – many of which are children.”

Another reason for the legislative impasse was over expanding Medicaid. Scott wants the federal government to extend the LIP fund. But the Obama administration and the hospitals want the Republican governor to provide Medicaid coverage to more than 800,000 low-income Floridians. But the Governor and the Republican-controlled House are opposed.

Scott’s also drawing fire over who sits on the nine-member commission. There are no hospital executives, and only one medical doctor. Chairman Carlos Beruff is a homebuilder from south Florida, and reportedly a six-figure donor to Scott’s two gubernatorial campaigns. The makeup of that panel is also a concern of Sacred Heart CEO Susan Davis.

“If the purpose of this commission is to explore various ways of hospitals operating or their expense structure,” said Davis. “It would surely help answer those questions better, by having somebody that lives in that world, day in and day out.”

For now, it’s unclear how much impact the Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding will have. The Legislature convenes a special session June 1, and must approve a new budget by June 20 to avoid a shutdown of state government.