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Bill Would Provide More Money For Florida’s Safety Net Hospitals

Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital
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The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A bill filed by Sen. Marco Rubio would change the way safety net hospitals are reimbursed for serving uninsured and Medicaid patients.

The change could provide up to $600 million more over the next 10 to 15 years for Florida hospitals that care for all patients, regardless of their ability to pay.

The proposal would replace a formula created in the early 1990s that resulted in Florida getting a disproportionately smaller share of funding. Texas, for example, gets 475 percent more funding for uninsured patients than Florida, according to the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida.

The lack of funding has taken a toll on Florida’s hospitals, said the Alliance’s president Lindy Kennedy

“We have had hospitals in rural areas that have had to close, we have seen hospitals forming mergers with other hospitals just trying to make ends meet,” Kennedy said. “Hospitals are forced to make financial decisions that may run counter to their mission.”

Safety net hospitals care for a greater proportion of patients who are on Medicaid or unable to pay. They are reimbursed by the state, which gets money from the federal government as well.

Rubio’s State Accountability, Flexibility and Equity (SAFE) for Hospitals Act would use census data and poverty rates to base the data on the number of low-income earners living in a state.

Hospitals providing care to the most vulnerable patients would be prioritized.

“For far too long, Florida has not received its fair share of funding for hospitals that serve the most vulnerable patients,” Rubio said in a release. “My new bill would fix this disparity and update the system to create equity …”

Some 75 percent of patients served by safety net hospitals in Florida are on Medicare, Medicaid or receive military benefits, Kennedy said. The hospitals don’t have the ability to negotiate prices for services for those patients. Furthermore, the state reimburses about 40 cents on the dollar on the cost to care for Medicaid patients, Kennedy said.

“Unfortunately budgeters have not funded Florida’s Medicaid program adequately,” Kennedy said.  

With additional funding, hospitals would have money to update and expand outdated facilities and invest in needed programs.

“Our hospitals would reinvest in their hospitals because that’s their mission,” Kennedy said. “And they would probably communicate with their communities and receive input from local county commissions and city commissions and boards as to how they would like to see their health care delivered and what improvements or changes they would like to see.

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Julio Ochoa is editor of Health News Florida.
Julio Ochoa
Julio Ochoa is editor of Health News Florida.