Public hospital panel finishes work

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Voters should get to decide every so often whether hospital taxing districts should be able to continue levying taxes, and hospitals in those taxing districts should be separate entities, not owned by the district, a panel appointed by Gov. Rick Scott is set to recommend, reports David Royse of the News Service of Florida.

The Commission on Review of Taxpayer Funded Hospital Districts, in finalizing its report on Thursday, stopped short of a more radical recommendation to completely privatize public hospitals.

“There’s a role for public hospitals, there’s a role for non-profits, we’re not calling for the abolition of any of those things,” said Dominic Calabro, the chairman of the commission, which held the last of 14 meetings that started in May. “I think it does make it clear there’s a role for public hospitals.”

The final report will be sent to the governor by Monday, and likely a final version will be available publicly on Tuesday.

Scott appointed the panel in part to determine if government-operated hospitals were operated better or worse than private hospitals, whether the quality of care at the different types of facilities was notably different, and whether private hospitals can operate cheaper than public ones while getting at least the same results.

On that, the panel wasn’t able to say much, definitively.

“Using the available outcome data, the Commission could not establish that there is a pattern of higher or lower quality in Florida hospitals based on ownership,” the panel says in its final draft report, which the commission on Thursday unanimously signed off on.

The commission recommends that the Agency for Health Care Administration should continue to publish data on quality in an effort to get closer to an answer to that question.

On costs, the commission earlier this year heavily debated a study it received that indicated that costs were higher at public hospitals. But the commission also notes in its report that the way hospitals are paid to treat poor patients is in flux. Medicaid in Florida is shifting into a managed care model, and the Legislature is also looking into another change that sets payments for care based on grouping patients by diagnosis, or paying for a patient based on what it should roughly cost to treat their ailment rather than billing by specific costs. The panel is recommending that the state continue to look at changing the way Medicaid pays hospitals.

The study showing the cost difference was heavily criticized by public hospitals, but its findings were included

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.