Health-care issues pose challenges for Florida

Richard B. Akin, President and CEO 

of CHS Healthcare

Richard B. Akin, President and CEO of CHS Healthcare


There's a bright spot on the horizon for children's medical care in Southwest Florida.

But overshadowing the good is that the health-care system on the state and national level isn't sustainable.

That's how Richard Akin, president and chief executive officer of the Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida, presented several industry topics Wednesday morning at Wake Up Naples, a monthly function of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce at the Hilton Naples.

He spoke about the overall challenges facing health-care today, an insurance product that the Healthcare Network started several years ago, and expansion of the Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida, which is part of the Lee Memorial Health System in Lee County.

Besides serving as CEO of the Healthcare Network, which provides dental and clinic-based care for needy children and women in Collier County, Akin is chairman of the Lee Memorial board.

Regarding health care overall, Akin said it does not matter who is elected president in November because reforms are essential to stop runaway costs for Medicare for the elderly and the state-run Medicaid for the poor and disabled.

In Florida, Medicaid is $21 billion of the budget this year, about 30 percent of the total state budget, and could overtake a bigger slice if expansion and costs aren't contained.

"We are facing a ticking time bomb," he said.

Medicare is on course to becoming bankrupt but the Affordable Care Act extends its solvency to 2024, he said. Still, people are living longer, there is more expensive technology today and costs associated with chronic care needs are skyrocketing. Reimbursement cuts to doctors and hospitals will mean more doctors will quit accepting Medicare.

"Doctors don't want to accept Medicare, many will treat it like Medicaid," he said. "They don't want it."

Akin also spoke about how the Healthcare Network in 2010 launched its own managed care insurance plan, called Integral Quality Care, that was possible with a substantial loan from Aetna. The Medicaid HMO plan is owned by Integral and structured so 2 percent of the profit will return to Collier County.

So far Integral operates in 11 counties, with more to come, and the Healthcare Network repaid the loan from Aetna in 2½ years, in half the time from the original projection.

Lastly, Akin spoke about the $191 million expansion of the Children's Hospital at HealthPark Medical Center and why the decision was made to build the five-story children's tower next to HealthPark as opposed to Bonita Springs or elsewhere.

Staying at HealthPark avoided land acquisition costs and means not having to duplicate dietary, surgical and imaging services. In addition, each full-fledged children's hospital needs a patient volume of 250,000 children, and Southwest Florida doesn't have enough children to support two children's hospitals.

The Children's Hospital serves the five-county area but 25 percent of the children with cancer who are treated there live in Collier, he said. Groundbreaking for the expansion is next year.

"It's not just the money, it's the volume," he said. "To keep specialists busy, you've got to have the volume."

Out of a five-year, $115 million fundraising campaign that the Lee Memorial Foundation launched two years ago, $51 million has been raised. That's not including an anonymous donor who has pledged $20 million if it is matched, which could bring in another $40 million. Akin said an announcement of the anonymous donor may come in October.

© 2012 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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