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Rick Scott’s healthcare commission the hot ticket in town

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

There are more questions than answers in Tallahassee regarding healthcare financing, Medicaid and the inevitable special session this summer.

One thing is for sure, though: there’s plenty of interest in serving on the healthcare commission that Gov. Rick Scott created through an executive order on Tuesday and tasked with analyzing the state’s healthcare costs and investigate what can be done to lower them.

“It is the intent of this administration to continue to develop cost-effective, patient-cenered approaches for making healthcare services more responsive to the needs of Florida families and to lessen the regulations of government,” the order reads in part.

Scott’s executive order doesn’t mention how many members would be on the commission or if any of them would be lawmakers. Scott will appoint an executive director and the commission will be staffed by the Agency for Health Care Administration.

Scott offered little additional information about the commission or its members other than to say the names would be released “promptly.”

Florida Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Wilson said he has spoken both with the governor and his team about the Florida Chamber’s plan, where the Chamber stands on the issues and how it could be helpful.

“Whether that means we’ll serve on it, whether that means we’ll provide information to it, we’ll be happy either way.”

Scott’s office has reached out to the for-profit hospital industry requesting that they provide recommendations on who could serve on the commission. Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida said in a press release on Tuesday, meanwhile, that it would “welcome seats at the commission table” given the role safety-net hospitals play in the state’s healthcare delivery system.

National Federation Independent Business Florida Executive Director Bill Herrle said his association also has “had general conversations with (the Governor’s Office) about this commission and we presumed that submitting some names would be welcome.”

Herrle said if his group submitted a candidate for the commission it would be “an actual business owner, a taxpayer and a consumer voice,” and not a professional lobbyist.

The governor first mentioned developing a commission as the legislative session began to fall apart with the House and Senate unable to agree on a spending plan for the 2015-16 year. Florida Association of Health Plans Chief Executive Officer and President Audrey Brown said then that her association looked forward to “participating in a new commission” if one were named.

Brown’s group represents Medicaid HMOs as well as commercial health plans. She said  Medicaid HMOs are regulated by two state agencies and that there are strict medical loss ratio requirements and minimum solvency requirements on plans.

“Financial statements for the plans are filed with AHCA and the OIR and are public record,” she said when asked about the commission’s review of the health plans.

The Safety Net Hospital Alliance, which represents community-owned hospitals and several children hospitals, said in a release that the hospitals are “transparent and look forward to sharing with the commission how they achieve operational efficiencies while providing high-quality healthcare to all patients seeking treatment, regardless of ability to pay.”

There also has been interest from lawmakers to serve on the commission. State Sen. Alan Hays issued a press release in April saying in a meeting he had with the governor he asked to be named to the commission. In the release Hays said he fully supported the governor’s idea to “better understand the use of our tax dollars in the healthcare industry.”

There also has been interest among House members to serve on the commission.

This is the second commission that Scott has appointed to examine what he calls taxpayer-funded hospitals and their role in Florida’s delivery system. The first commission was appointed in March 2011. Two legislators were appointed to the commission, state Sen. Joe Negron and state Rep. Matt Hudson.

That commission was asked to make recommendations on the role of taxpayer-supported hospitals and whether it was in the public’s best interest to have government entities running hospitals.

The group issued a report after meeting 14 times between March and December.

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