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Rick Scott’s Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding not happy with lack of responses from hopsitals

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Members of Rick Scott’s blue-ribbon healthcare commission were swimming in data, but on Wednesday members made clear that they wanted additional information and took aim at hospitals for not voluntarily providing all the information that was requested of them.

Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding member Marili Cancio Johnson asked the commission staff to compile a list of hospitals that didn’t respond to the voluntary data call and, moreover, asked staff to identify how much Medicaid and Low Income Pool dollars those facilities receive.

None of the 46-affiliated Hospital Corporation of America, or HCA, facility responded to the data call.

Many of the hospitals that did respond to the data call either provided information where the data they requested could be found or noted that the information couldn’t be supplied because it was proprietary.

Some hospitals submitted a Florida Hospital Association letter that explains why the facilities didn’t disclose information related to the hospital’s actual inpatient and outpatient Medicaid managed-care payment rates because it “is proprietary and market sensitive.”

Other hospitals used a letter provided by the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida that questioned the data the governor was asking for and additionally suggested that “prior to embarking on a comparative analysis of profit-sharing scenarios, the commission should request a “tailored hospital operating margin template be designed.”

Commission memeber Sam Seevers said she was concerned that the hospitals didn’t take time to fill out the appropriate information. “If they received tax dollars, they should be responsible for giving us the information,” said Seevers, the former mayor of Destin.

The FHA issued a statement saying hospitals have a long-established partnership with the state to routinely report patient, quality and financial data.

“We believe in, and fully support, transparency to ensure our patients are able to make informed health care decisions. We welcome serious discussions that lead to long-term solutions–increasing access to coverage for low-income working Floridians and a future for the Low Income Pool. Florida hospitals stand ready to work with the Legislature and Governor Scott’s administration on policies that are in the best interest of the patients and communities we serve.”

A phone call made to an HCA lobbyist seeking comment on why none of the facilities submitted information was not returned.

Commission chairman Carlos Beruff said because of the vast amount of information the governor requested the board wanted to have the information provided in the same format.

“If you can get everyone to give it to you in the exact same format it’s just easier to read, it’s easier to digest you can make better decisions from it,” he said. “I just thought some of the information AHCA doesn’t have. They can get it but they have to go to a federal source to get it.”

The insurance companies and HMOs also were asked to submit information to the state for consideration by the commission but commission members focused their efforts on hospitals, only.

“I think we are more focused on the hospitals than we are on the managed care plans, which is a whole different arena. Not saying that they won’t be looked at, but our focus is to find out who gets paid what, for what service, and what quality services the patient gets and is it consistent,” said Beruff. “The medical field is a vast field, so you have to pick what you are trying to address.”

Beruff said the commission is looking at hospitals “because they are the ones who get the bulk of the money.”

The governor created the healthcare and hospital commission after the Florida Legislature adjourned without passing a budget for the upcoming 2015-16 fiscal year, which starts July 1. Lawmakers were unable to reach accord because the House and Senate had proposed spending plans that were $4 billion apart, due to the fact the Senate’s proposed budget including federal dollars for a Medicaid expansion as well as continued financing for the Low Income Pool.

The House, however, passed legislation to eliminate the Low Income Pool from statutes and did not include any Medicaid expansion money.

Neither chamber was willing to compromise on the issue of health care access which brought budget negotiations to a standstill. The House then offered to increase the amount of money it was willing to spend on health care by $200 million but the Senate rejected the offer. The House tripled its offer, saying it would increase health care spending by $600 million if the Senate would walk away from including Medicaid expansion dollars and Low Income Pool dollars in their budget but again the chamber refused.

Frustrated that budget negotiations were stalled the House adjourned, sine die, three days before the end of the 60-day regular session.

Scott created the commission via an executive order in early May and announced the nine commission members May 11. Though he was in Tallahassee on Wednesday Scott did not make an appearance at the commission’s inaugural meeting. Instead, the governor addressed the panel via a brief telephone call where he reminded the commission their goal was to focus on taxpayers’ money and how it is spent on healthcare in Florida.

“We’ve got to get a return on those dollars because they are somebody’s hard-earned dollars,” Scott told the commission members. Scott’s remarks were less than two minutes.

The commission discussed a number of issues on Wednesday, hearing presentations on Certificate of Need to the Low Income Pool. The commission meets again next week in Orlando.

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