Orlando Sentinel: Scott orders study of abolishing public hospitals

Former corporate hospital executive seeks 'more rational' approach to paying hospitals for care of the uninsured

March 23, 2011- Gov. Rick Scott, a former executive of corporate hospitals, on Wednesday ordered a yearlong study of whether Florida could do away with government-owned hospitals such as the nine in Broward County and financially ailing Jackson Memorial in Miami.

Scott set up a commission to report by Jan. 1 if the state could save money and provide better health care if privately owned and nonprofit hospitals took over caring for the uninsured and poor people, a role that public hospitals mostly shoulder.

The governor wants the panel to delve into controversial issues such as whether government-run hospitals pay friendly doctors inflated contracts to get business, use taxes to compete unfairly with the private sector, and waste money from the hundreds of millions in taxes they collect to subsidize the treatment of those who can't pay.

"It is the intent of this administration to develop a more rational approach to compensating hospitals," Scott said in his order. He also asked for the best methods for converting government hospitals to private ownership.

Officials representing government-owned hospitals said they welcome the review, but called it a mistake to think the private sector could take over all hospital care.

"We have to prove our value to the local communities every year," said Anthony Carvalho, president of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance, a group representing government and teaching hospitals. "I'm not going to put this study in the worry category. I'm sure the hospitals working with the commission will have their day in court and prove their value."

South Florida, by far, has the largest stake in the issue. Broward's two hospital districts collect more than $200 million in local property taxes to run their nine hospitals — five in Memorial Healthcare System and four in the North Broward Hospital District. Miami-Dade County owns Jackson Memorial and two satellite hospitals.

By contrast, Palm Beach County and many other areas that collect health care taxes send the money to private and nonprofit hospitals in the community to subsidize care of uninsured patients. Scott appointed Dwight Chenette, the head of the Palm Health Care District, to the commission.


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