As Gov. Rick Scott’s newly created health-care commission prepares to meet Wednesday to begin sifting through data about hospital funding, the governor’s request for information has been met with hospitals essentially telling him to go look it up.
Many of the dozens of surveys returned by hospitals have five or fewer of the roughly 100 lines filled out with new information. Officials frequently referred Scott back to information filed with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, which oversees much of the state’s spending on health care.
“Florida Hospital regularly reports financial and hospital utilization data to the Agency for Health Care Administration, as required by state law,” wrote Joe Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Florida Hospital Carrollwood, in a letter accompanying an essentially blank response to the survey. “We believe our submissions are up to date, accurate and readily available to the public for review. In order to meet your urgent request, we respectfully refer you to consult AHCA to obtain this comprehensive information.”
Johnson also used his letter to make a pitch for Medicaid expansion — something Scott adamantly opposes — calling it “the most compassionate, sustainable and fiscally prudent approach to deal with the state’s uninsured population.”
The same letter, signed by other officials, accompanied the submissions from other Florida Hospital branches.
It is not the only form letter that has been circulated to the commission. Several hospitals used a similar letter that argued, among other things, that the information Scott was seeking in some cases was unclear.
“Rather than speculate, we will await further clarification on these data points before we provide the requested information,” the letter said.
Scott formed the Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding after the Legislature failed to agree during its regular session on a spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1. Lawmakers were tripped up by questions surrounding whether the federal government will extend the Low Income Pool program, which is set to expire June 30. The $2.2 billion “LIP” program sends money to hospitals and other medical providers that care for large numbers of low-income patients.
The Senate also wants to use Medicaid expansion funds to help low-income Floridians purchase private insurance, but the House has for two years opposed similar proposals.
In an email, a spokeswoman for Scott did not directly answer whether he thought the survey answers were responsive to his questions.
“We received some of the information the governor requested for the commission,” spokeswoman Jackie Schutz wrote. “AHCA is posting that information on the commission’s website.”
Not every hospital stonewalled the governor. Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine was “pleased to respond to your request for information,” according to a letter from Joseph Gordy, the hospital’s president and chief executive officer.
“Our team worked diligently to provide as much of the data as possible within the time allotted for response,” Gordy said.
But even some of those responses came with notes of caution. Don Henderson, CEO of The Villages Regional Hospital, appeared to question the wisdom of a proposal Scott has floated to have hospitals share profits if the LIP program goes away.
“However, I would like to point out that if the current operating surplus at TVRH were diverted to other parts of the state, we could no longer afford the capital investments needed to keep up with the exceptional demographic growth in our area,” Henderson wrote. “We would also be very challenged to continue to provide the same rates of charity and uncompensated care. Let’s hope that does not happen.”
–Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida