EDITOR'S NOTE: This story contains information that has been corrected since it was first published in print and online. See a note below for an explanation.
TAMPA — Changes to Medicaid, increased emphasis on primary care and reforms to medical malpractice policies were among the goals outlined Thursday by top lawmakers during a Tampa stop on their statewide health care tour.
Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos led the group that sat down with about two dozen health care providers at the University of South Florida's College of Medicine to discuss how to move closer to a "patient centered" health care system. Haridopolos said the current "government based" system is too costly and complicated.
It was the second day of a three-day sweep, dubbed the Health Care Solutions Tour, that began in Miami on Wednesday. Also on board were senators Don Gaetz, Joe Negron, Ronda Storms and Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman.
At USF, Haridopolos displayed a slide show with a mazelike graphic to illustrate the intricate bureaucratic system that governs health care.
"And look who's at the center," Haridopolos said, pointing to bold letters spelling out "Secretary of Health and Human Services."
Haridopolos said a more individualized, "patient centered" system would mean assigning doctors to closely follow patients through electronic records and more primary care.
Though Haridopolos criticized President Obama's health care plan, he said the aim of his tour was not political.
"We're not going to be simply against something," he said. "We need to offer a better alternative."
Haridopolos said he and his fellow senators would work for the next three or four months to hammer out a specific plan, but he stressed that it would be a long-term process.
This year, he said, the Senate already has held 17 committee meetings with over 40 hours of testimony about Medicaid, which he said was an overworked system that eats about 30 percent of the state budget.
"There's no such thing as something for nothing," he said. "As George Washington said during the American Revolution, 'We are out of money. Now we must think.' "
Franklin Sands, the state House's Democratic leader, released a statement blasting Haridopolos' tour as "misleading and politically charged rhetoric."
"Federal health reforms are a good thing for Florida, its taxpayers and the state's vulnerable population," he said in the news release. "… I hope future discussions of Florida's health care systems include all the facts and be presented in a fair, nonpartisan fashion."
CORRECTION: Mike Haridopolos is the president-designate of the Florida Senate. A story Thursday had an incorrect title.
Kim Wilmath can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2442.