Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Public hospitals on Gov. Scott’s radar

March 24, 2011- Gov. Rick Scott has long questioned the value of government-run hospitals. Now he is signaling his intention to confront — and possibly overhaul — the role of Florida public hospitals that get tax dollars.

In creating a 10-member commission to examine the hospitals over the next year, Scott raised the fundamental question in his executive order of "whether it is in the public best interest to have government entities operating hospitals."

The study's outcome could have far-reaching implications for the more than 30 government-run hospitals in the state, including Sarasota Memorial, a community hospital founded in 1925. Among them, it could:

• Change the way tax money is distributed to hospitals, allowing some for-profit hospitals to share in the revenue if they provide care for uninsured or Medicaid patients.

• Raise the possibility that some of the public hospitals could be sold, if it could be shown that health care could be provided more efficiently and at less cost to taxpayers.

• Revamp the way doctors are paid at public hospitals, with Scott's order questioning whether some of them are being paid "outside the norm."

Scott, who once headed the largest for-profit health care company in the country, played down his well-documented antipathy toward government hospitals, which he has derogatorily called "non-taxpaying hospitals."

In his executive order, Scott bluntly questioned some of the practices of the public hospitals, noting that they compete with for-profit hospitals "while utilizing the benefit of taxes, enhanced Medicaid reimbursements and subsidies for losses." In some cases, he noted that public hospitals had bought out their competitors.


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