1. Florida Politics

Gov. Rick Scott officially convenes commission on hospital spending

Florida Gov. Rick Scott addresses a joint session of the Florida Legislature, on March 3 during his State of the State address. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published May 6, 2015

TALLAHASSEE — Wednesday could be an awkward day for Gov. Rick Scott, who is scheduled to meet with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to talk about renewing a $2.2 billion hospital funding program for Florida.

After all, he's suing her.

Burwell is named as the defendant in Scott's suit alleging that the Obama Administration is trying to coerce Florida into expanding Medicaid by ending the so-called Low Income Pool (LIP). The agency has not commented directly on the suit, but says Medicaid expansion is and has always been a "state decision."

Despite the legal tussle, Scott is optimistic about his trip to Washington.

"The reason I'm doing this is we've got to get a budget done," he said on his way to the airport Tuesday. "And it's hard to get a budget done not knowing exactly (the feds) decision."

Uncertainty over the future of the LIP program has paralyzed state lawmakers tasked with building the state budget. The program, which provides supplemental funding to safety-net hospitals and county health departments, is scheduled to end on June 30 — unless the federal government approves a proposed successor program. A special session will be held, but it's unclear when lawmakers will return to Tallahassee.

It is not clear what role Medicaid expansion will play in the decision.

Federal health officials have said Medicaid expansion and the continuation of the Low Income Pool are linked because they would cover some of the same people. But because of strong opposition from the Florida House, the Legislature is unlikely to accept federal Medicaid expansion money this year. The Senate is pushing for expansion and has proposed its own plan to do so.

Scott, a former hospital executive, opposes Medicaid expansion. In recent weeks, he has been trying to drive a parallel conversation on the issue of health care and hospital funding.

On Tuesday, Scott signed an executive order creating a new commission to explore the issue. In addition to investigating outcomes at taxpayer-supported hospitals, the working group will examine executive compensation and spending on lobbyists, advertising and political campaigns.

With Medicaid spending accounting for one-third of the state budget, Scott said the commission makes sense.

"We ought to know how those dollars are being spent," he said. "What's the outcome of those dollars? Are they being spent efficiently?"

The executive order did not specify how many members would be appointed to the commission, what kind of qualifications would be required, or when the group would begin meeting. It did, however, say that all members of the commission, its chair and its executive director would be appointed by the governor.

Scott said he planned to make appointments "promptly," adding that the information would be useful to lawmakers under pressure to pass a budget by June 30.

Democrats were quick to bring up the fact that he resigned his job as the CEO of a for-profit hospital chain in 1997 after federal agents went public with an investigation into the company. Columbia/HCA later agreed to pay a record $1.7 billion in government penalties and fines.

"Now, Rick Scott — who resigned from the health care company he founded amid federal fraud investigations — has decided his time would be well spent auditing the books of Florida hospitals," Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant said in a statement. "How does that help resolve the gridlock in the legislature? The only hospital management advice Rick Scott knows how to offer is training executives how to fleece the federal government for billions."

At least one person expressed an interest in participating: Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla.

"Almost $24 billion tax dollars are being spent each year on health care in the state of Florida, and I feel like the public deserves a very good accounting of where that money goes," Hays said Tuesday. "And I think this commission can play a very key role in clearing up some of the misconceptions that are out there, whether it be on the part of the hospitals thinking they deserve more funding or whether that be on the part of the public thinking there needs to be more money."

Scott convened a review of taxpayer-funded hospital districts in 2011.

Times/Herald staff writer Michael Auslen contributed to this report. Contact Kathleen McGrory at Follow @kmcgrory.


  1. The Florida Supreme Court, Wednesday, May 1, 2019.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    A quick look at a variety of salaries in Florida government.
  2. Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Miami, Florida while visiting Ball & Ball & Chain in Little Havana for a meet-and-greet with Hispanic voters on Sunday, September 15, 2019. [CARL JUSTE CJUSTE | MIAMI HERALD]
    Florida Democrats have feared that Trump has been mostly left unchecked to court Miami’s exile communities.
  3. Hillsborough Democratic Party Executive Director Mark Hanisee. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Party officials said they sold 750 tickets for $100 to $200 each for the Kennedy-King Dinner.
  4. H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute is the centerpiece of Project Arthur, an 800-acre corporate park that could include up 24 million square feet of office and industrial space on nearly 7,000 acres of what is now ranch land, but targeted for development in central Pasco. Times
    The H. Lee Moffitt facility is the centerpiece of an economic development effort in a proposed 800-acre corporate park.
  5. Marion Hammer, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. [News Service of Florida] News Service of Florida
    ‘We’re going to find out at some point in the future,’ one Republican said.
  6. Florida Supreme Court Justices Barbara Lagoa, left, and Robert Luck, right, were appointed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta by President Trump. Florida Supreme Court
    Ok losers, who needs access to our state politicians, anyway?
  7. Fox News host Tucker Carlson (left) and former national security adviser John Bolton Associated Press
    Carlson said Bolton was “one of the most progressive people in the Trump administration.”
  8. A view of the student center at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, where opposition is mounting over a plan to consolidate USF's three campuses. Some state lawmakers are opposed to parts of it that would concentrate authority over academic decisions in Tampa. CHRIS URSO   |   TIMES  |
    They say the proposal by USF president Steve Currall conflicts with a new Florida law by giving too much authority to the Tampa campus.
  9. Wreckage left behind by Hurricane Michael. News Service of Florida
    Entire school systems are still recovering from long-standing damage and dealing with the disruptive aftermath of the storm.
  10. An aerial view of the AmericanAirlines Arena, of the Miami Heat. American is set to leave as the named sponsor by the end of 2019. DRONEBASE VIA AP
    BangBros, best known for filming sex scenes in vans, announced it had submitted a $10 million bid to replace American Airlines as title sponsor of the county-owned arena.