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Rick Scott’s healthcare panel unhappy with hospitals’ responses to data call

Members of Rick Scott’s blue-ribbon health care commission swam  in data Wednesday, but they made clear they want more information and took aim at hospitals for not voluntarily providing all the information requested of them.

Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding member Marili Cancio Johnson asked the panel’s staff to list hospitals that didn’t respond to the voluntary data call. She also asked staff to identify how much Medicaid and Low Income Pool funding those facilities receive.

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

Many hospitals that did respond either said where the requested data could be found or noted that it couldn’t be supplied because of  proprietary reasons.

Some hospitals submitted a Florida Hospital Association letter explaining that they didn’t disclose information about their actual inpatient and outpatient Medicaid managed-care payment rates because it “is proprietary and market sensitive.”

Other hospitals sent a letter provided by the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida that questioned the data the governor sought. It also 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 member Sam Seevers expressed concern 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, a 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 telephone call 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 it provided in an identical 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 only on hospitals.

“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,” Beruff said. “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 Legislature adjourned without passing a budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year, which starts July 1. Lawmakers were unable to reach an accord because the House and Senate had proposed spending plans that were $4 billion apart, because the Senate’s proposed budget included federal funding 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. That 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 funding and Low Income Pool money in their budget. Again the Senate 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. Although he was in Tallahassee on Wednesday, Scott did not make an appearance at the commission’s inaugural meeting. Instead, he spoke to the panel via a brief telephone call, reminding the commission that its goal is to focus on taxpayers’ money and how it is spent on health care in Florida.

“We’ve got to get a return on those dollars because they are somebody’s hard-earned dollars,” Scott said in remarks scarcely two minutes long.

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

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