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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

House, Senate agree: No profit caps in hospital funding



The House and Senate are saying “no” to Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal that would penalize hospitals that earned a profit in 2014.

Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, and Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, on Thursday unveiled parts of the legislative chambers’ health and human services budgets for the 2016-17 fiscal year. Although the House’s plan is similar to Scott’s in some ways, it’s clear the Legislature has no interest in a 9.3 percent profit cap.

“That issue is off the table,” said Hudson, who chairs the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.

After federal regulators shrunk the Low Income Pool to $608 million this year and changed some of its rules, lawmakers have to find a new model to reimburse hospitals for uncompensated charity care. The House plan is “substantially” similar to one proposed by the governor, Hudson said. It has three tiers, based on the percentage of charity care each hospital performs.

Full details of the House’s LIP model, including how much each hospital in the state would receive under the budget plan, will be available Friday when the chamber’s budget is released.

The House proposal sets aside $4.9 million for rural hospitals to offset their losses through LIP and $198 million for physicians at medical schools.

In the wake of reporting by the Tampa Bay Times and Sarasota Herald-Tribune highlighting violence at the state’s crowded, underfunded mental hospitals, the House is asking for $3.8 million to expand the number of forensic beds and increase staff by 43.

Nevertheless, under the plan, deep personnel cuts recommended by the governor would hit several agencies, most severely the Department of Health. Nearly all of those positions were never filled by agencies after the Legislature authorized them, or they have been vacant for years, Hudson said.

“Clearly the organization has figured out how to make up for that and how to compensate for that,” he said.

County health departments, for example are “kind of out of the primary care business,” Hudson said. They could take the brunt of hundreds of position cuts in this year’s budget alone.

Democrats on the committee pushed back against Hudson, asking whether there was more the Legislature could do to ensure jobs they authorize executive agencies to fill actually get used.

“Frankly, I think what’ll happen if they don’t is we’ll take them right away from them,” Hudson said. “I think that’s where the appropriate check and balance is supposed to be.”

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee released its budget proposal earlier Thursday. The two chambers have not yet started their negotiations to finalize a budget. 

And let’s not forget Scott wields the power of the veto pen.

[Last modified: Thursday, January 28, 2016 6:37pm]


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