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Health execs offer ‘solutions’

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By Nancy McVicar
8/4/2010 © Health News Florida

Sen. Mike Haridopolos kicked off a three-day "Health Care Solutions Tour" in Miami today with a slide show that hit the major Republican talking points, including warnings about the cost of "Obamacare" and the surge in the Medicaid program it will create.

After a tour of the Borinquen Community Health Center in downtown, Haridopolos hosted a "roundtable" discussion. About 40 local health care facility representatives and elected officials crammed into a conference room intended for less than half that number.  

However, patients weren't in evidence, which drew a protest from an advocacy group.

"Unless critical stakeholders participate in these discussions, any policies developed out of these meetings will be poorly informed, and therefore fatally flawed," said Laura Goodhue, executive director of Florida Community Health Action Information Network (CHAIN).

In his opening remarks, Haridopolos presented a slide show laying out what he sees as the major problem – the need to cut costs while providing access to quality health care “using community solutions, not government solutions.” 

One of the graphics he displayed laid out a huge maze of new agencies he said are coming under the Obama administration’s new health law. 

“I’m afraid the patient will be lost in this maze,” he said. 

Borinquen, a federally-qualified, non-profit community health center, cares for about 23,000 culturally diverse patients, most of them uninsured, said Bob Linder, CEO and president. Only about 30 percent are on Medicaid, 5 percent on Medicare, and a small percentage has private insurance. 

Linder said federal money keeps the center going, and that the doctors who work there don’t have to pay for malpractice insurance. The federal government takes care of that for them. 

Brodes H. Hartley Jr., president and CEO of Community Health Centers of South Florida, Inc., told Haridopolos that more centers like Borinquen should be created across the state.  “We have the solution for you,” he said.

“We provide universal access whether [patients] have insurance or not or money or not, and there is a cost savings involved because people are less likely to end up in the emergency room or hospital.” 

Dr. M. Narendra Kini, CEO of Miami Children’s Hospital, told Haridopolos that even though 67 percent of his hospital’s patients are on Medicaid, the federal government does not provide any help with malpractice coverage, which costs the hospital $3 million a year. 

“That would provide a substantial amount of patient care,” he said.

The Florida Medical Association sent out a release "applauding" the senator's effort to "reach out to health care professionals ...to identify new ways to improve access to care and control costs."

But FMA expressed concerns about what it called "troubling proposals that have been introduced in previous legislative sessions that would turn the Medicaid Program over to managed care companies." 

This morning's session lasted just 45 minutes before setting out for the next stop, the Hendry County Health Department in Clewiston. 

Tomorrow the tour will be in Orlando. Thursday afternoon has stops scheduled in Tampa Bay. On Friday, it will head north to Gainesville and Tallahassee. More information is at Haridopolos' Web site.