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Rick Scott’s commission is focusing on the costs

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Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order identifying nine areas he wants a blue-ribbon healthcare commission to examine regarding healthcare costs in Florida, including  how much money “taxpayer-funded” hospitals spend on lobbyists, campaign contributions, and advertising.

This is the second healthcare commission the governor has created since 2011 and, like its predecessor, it has a focus on the care delivered at “taxpayer supported” hospitals.

In the May 5 executive order, Scott spells out the profitability percentages in 2012 and 2006 for facilities that are for-profit, hospitals that are not-for-profit, and facilities that are owned by local government. According to the figures cited in the executive order, for-profit facilities were the least profitable in 2012, but were the most profitable in 2006.

“It is appropriate and necessary to review Florida hospital, insurance, and healthcare providers and how any taxpayer money and government policies contribute to the quality, profits (including executive compensation packages), and losses of these institutions, and their impact on the affordability, success, and quality of healthcare services of Florida families.”

Specifically the order directs the commission to:

  • Investigate the extent to which taxpayer funding for healthcare services is patient-centered.
  • Investigate the extent to which taxpayer funding is causing healthcare costs to rise or fall for Florida families.
  • Investigate the extent to which taxpayer funding is contributing to health outcomes for Florida families.
  • Investigate the extent to which taxpayer funding impacts access to and quality of care for Florida families.
  • Investigate the extent to which patients on Medicaid experience better or worse health outcomes compared to other patients.
  • Investigate the extent to which certificate of need laws impact the affordability, access, and quality of healthcare services for Florida families, and
  • Investigate the extent to which taxpayer-funded hospitals pay for lobbyists, campaign contributions, and advertising.

Though the commission is tasked with examining “insurers and healthcare providers,” the edict to examine lobbying costs does not apply to them or to the for-profit hospitals, either.

The commission is expected to meet “promptly” and begin work, which the governor says will be helpful to the Legislature and his office during the upcoming special session.

However, the lengthy agenda has some wondering how the work can be accomplished. Said one healthcare analyst, “I could see this as six months or more.”

Florida Chamber President Mark Wilson said his group is happy the governor will focus his efforts on the costs of health care. “I am so excited that we have one of the smartest hospital executives in Florida serving as our governor. He is interested in hospitals being able to serve people and being able to stay in business.”

The Florida Chamber last session supported the use of federal Medicaid dollars but with certain caveats the group said were required to keep down healthcare costs such as   limiting lawsuits and keeping strong managed-care concepts. The Florida Chamber also supported a requirement that insurance companies roll back rates by 8 percent.

Florida Hospital Association President Bruce Rueben said his association “believe(s) in and support(s) price and quality transparency. “Florida hospitals welcome the discussion,” he said in the release.

Rueben continued that another important conversation needs to be had on how to  increase access to health care for uninsured Floridians, including disabled and low -ncome individuals. Rueben said in the release that his association stands ready to “work with the Scott administration and the Florida Legislature to develop solutions that are in the best interest of our patients, employees and communities.”

Scott co-founded Columbia Hospital Corporation, which eventually merged with Hospital Corporation of America to form Columbia-HCA. Scott resigned from the largest for-profit hospital chain in 1997 in the wake of a federal Medicare dispute.

The governor’s executive order was quickly dismissed by Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant who accused Scott of political grandstanding and auditing the books of Florida’s public hospitals.

“The only hospital management advice Rick Scott knows how to offer is training executives how to fleece the federal govrnment for billions,” said Tant on Tuesday.

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