Gov. Scott taking aim at Florida's public hospitals

Gov. Rick Scott, who made millions running a private hospital company, took aim Wednesday at Florida's public hospitals.

The Republican governor, a political newcomer elected in November, signed an executive order creating the seven-member Commission on Review of Taxpayer Funded Hospital Districts to determine if it's in the public's best interest to continue having government-operated hospitals.

The order says many taxing authorities in Florida and other states have sold or leased hospitals to private interests and that those facilities have thrived "while continuing to serve the poor at consistent levels and returning millions of dollars to the taxpayers."

Florida has 30 active public hospital districts.

Scott has given the commission until Jan. 1, 2012 to submit findings and recommendations to him and legislative leaders.

The governor writes in the order that he's found little correlation between uncompensated admissions and emergency room visits and the amount of money public hospitals receive from the state's Medicaid Low Income Pool to provide those services to the poor.

Also, he noted significant variations in Medicaid rates paid to hospitals for nearly identical services in the same markets.

Scott wrote that he intends "to develop a more rational approach to compensating hospitals" without encouraging "inefficiency, higher cost or irrational business practices."

The panel will be chaired by Dominic Calabro, president of Florida TaxWatch, a private research and advocacy group heavily supported by business interests.

Other members include R. Paul Duncan, chairman of the Health Services Research, Management and Policy Department at the University of Florida, and Dwight Chennette, chief executive officer of the Palm Beach County Health Care District.

The governor also appointed Miami banker J. Scott McCleneghen, Tallahassee health care consultant Marshall Kelley and Panama City pharmacist Randall McElheney. No information was immediately available on the final member, Brad Dinkins.

Scott is a former CEO of Columbia/HCA. The hospital conglomerate paid a record $1.7 billion fine to settle federal charges of Medicaid and Medicare fraud while Scott was in charge, but he said he was unaware of any wrongdoing.

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