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NW Florida hospital with high Medicare mark-ups could get $1 million from Legislature

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Fort Walton Beach Medical Center — included in the list of hospitals with some of the highest Medicare charges in the nation — could get a $1 million gift from the Florida Legislature.

House and budget healthcare conferees on Tuesday made their best and last offer to settle differences between the House and Senate healthcare spending plans. Isssues that could not be resolved between conference chair state Sen. Rene Garcia and vice chair state Rep. Matt Hudson have been “bumped” to be resolved by the House and Senate budget chiefs.

Included on the list of bump issues is $1 million in general revenue funds for the construction of a crisis stabilization unit at the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center in Okaloosa County. The money, according to the budget bill, would be used for building and renovating space to provide short-term psychiatric care to Baker Act patients as well as “other state-funded patients.”

The money was appropriated to the facility in 2014-15 and, if state Sen. Tom Lee and state Rep. Richard Corcoran agree, would be redirected toward the facility.

The Journal of Health Affairs reported on Monday that nearly all of the hospitals with the highest Medicare charges are for-profit facilities, and that 20 of those top billers are Florida hospitals. Fort Walton Beach Medical Center ranks No. 12 on the list of Top 50 chargers. A Hospital Corporation of America-owned facility, Fort Walton Beach Medical Center charged 10.6 times allowable Medicare rates compared to a national average of 3.4 and a mode of 2.4, according to the analysis.

The worst offender according to the report is North Okaloosa Medical Center, part of the Community Health Systems chain. It charged 12.6 times Medicare’s allowable rate.

The study’s authors–assistant professor in accounting at Washington and Lee University Ge Bai and Gerard F. Anderson, professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management and the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health–reviewed 2012 Medicare cost reports for the analysis.

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