Hospitals fight for state funds for low-income emergency patients

Aug 19, 2011

The following article was posted to the Channel 13 News website on August 18, 2011:

Hospitals fight for state funds for low-income emergency patients

By Troy Kinsey


Whether you have low-income health insurance or no insurance at all, hospitals can’t turn you away if you have an emergency.

Under Florida law, public hospitals must take patients with or without health insurance. As a result, public hospitals care for the majority of uninsured emergency.

As you may suspect, someone has to pay the bill. That someone is legislators in Tallahassee, and in turn, the taxpayer.

In 2011, the checks given to hospitals taking care of the patients are smaller than ever and some hospitals are accusing lawmakers of playing favorites.

At Halifax Hospital in Daytona Beach, the hospital can handle a medical crisis, but a financial crisis is a different story.

Dee Schaeffer, with Halifax Health, went to Tallahasse in an attempt to scale back a 15 percent cut to Halifax’s Medicaid funding.

“It has not impacted direct patient care, but we’re very concerned,” Schaeffer said. “If these trends continue forward, what difficult choices will our board possibly be faced with making?”

Most of Florida’s other public hospitals are faced with making the same difficult decisions Halifax is having to make.

One decision leaves the board with a choice between keeping or laying off doctors and nurses.

To help hospitals cope with declining federal funding, Florida runs what is known as the ‘low-income pool’.

Every year, the state takes out $1 billion and divides it among all the hospitals taking care of patients who can’t take care of their bills.

But now, the state legislature is giving much more money to private hospitals.

In fact, HCA, the chain founded by Gov. Rick Scott, has been given a full 83 percent more than Schaeffer and her colleagues on the low-income pool board recommended.

That means public hospitals are getting a much smaller piece of the pie.

Healthcare activist Richard Polangin said Gov. Scott and lawmakers need to be reined in

“They need a formula, they need criteria to follow and they have not had that in the past,” Polangin said. “They really need it now.”

With budgets on the verge of critical condition, it is a critical request Halifax and similar hospitals are making.

Lobbyists for Florida’s private hospitals said they deserve the extra money because they’re taking care of more low-income patients.

As for Gov. Scott, he’s pointed out he no longer has connections to HCA. He resigned his position as the chain’s CEO in the 1990s.

Find this article here: