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DeSantis budget would reward Florida hospitals with high ratings

Tampa General is among the hospitals that would receive money from a proposal seeking to hand out $10 million in new funding.

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed creating a program that would increase funding for high-performing hospitals, a move that could mean more money for 66 hospitals across Florida, including Tampa General, according to an analysis by a statewide hospital association.

The Medicaid proposal — dubbed the Top Outcome for Patients, or TOP, program — was included in the $91.4 billion budget plan DeSantis’ unveiled last month.

DeSantis recommended spending $3.8 million on the initiative. When matched with federal funding, that would make available nearly $10 million.

Hospitals, including some of the largest safety-net facilities in the state, praised DeSantis for the proposal.

“Jackson Health System has long had a reputation for clinical excellence and world-class medicine. We’re grateful that Gov. DeSantis recognizes and values the high quality care we provide and that he is eager to reward excellent performance by health systems like Jackson,” Carlos Migoya, president and CEO of Miami’s Jackson Health System, said in a statement to The News Service of Florida.

According to the analysis by the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida analysis, Jackson could receive $990,803 in additional quality payments if the proposed program is approved by lawmakers during the legislative session that starts Jan. 14.

“Every bit of public funding — from local, state and federal resources — helps Jackson fulfill its mission to the residents of Miami-Dade County,” Migoya said.

Patrick Manderfield, a spokesman for the state Agency for Health Care Administration, told the News Service that to qualify for the additional payments, hospitals would either have to be listed in the annual U.S. News & World Report’s “Top Florida Hospitals” list or achieve a “5 Star” or “4 Star” rating in federal “Hospital Compare” ratings.

Eight hospitals would qualify because they meet both requirements, according to the analysis. But most hospitals that would benefit under the plan would qualify because they appear on the U.S. News & World Report list.

DeSantis’ recommendation is just that, a recommendation. It still must be approved by the Legislature before it could take effect next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

While proposed funding changes can often cause fights within the hospital industry, Justin Senior, CEO of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, noted that DeSantis isn’t proposing to redirect existing funds. Instead, the governor is proposing additional funding.

“It’s not robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Senior said of the proposal.

Moreover, Senior said the initiative could work to incentivize some hospitals that don’t traditionally treat large numbers of Medicaid patients to do so. That’s because the payments would come in addition to Medicaid base rates that facilities are paid.

“It’s a way to get more top-quality hospitals into the Medicaid game,” he said.

It’s also a way to reward top-performing hospitals that already provide large amounts of Medicaid care.

More than 26 percent of the patients at Tampa General Hospital are on Medicaid, according to 2019 Medicaid discharge data. Tampa General Hospital could receive an additional $548,999 if the plan is approved.

Similar to Jackson, Tampa General could qualify because of its appearance on the U.S. News & World Report list.

“Tampa General is excited to see the governor propose a program using nationally recognized quality ratings for top quality hospital outcomes,” said Steve Harris, Tampa General’s vice president of government affairs. “We believe this is an effective way to incentivize high quality and, furthermore, it helps to reduce health care costs. Any increase in funding that Tampa General receives will go directly toward caring for the patients and families we serve.”

More than 32 percent of the patients at UF Health Jacksonville are on Medicaid. If the plan passes, the hospital would see $364,734 in additional Medicaid payments in the coming year. UF Health Jacksonville would qualify for the additional funding because of its appearance on the magazine’s list of top hospitals.

Leon L. Haley Jr., chief executive officer of UF Health Jacksonville and dean of the UF College of Medicine-Jacksonville, said the governor’s plan “will help us further our mission, which is to heal, to comfort, to educate and to discover. We dedicate our work to improving the lives of those we touch through quality health care, medical education, innovation and research.”

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