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Scott Names Hospital Panel Without Hospital Executives

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.


Gov. Rick Scott on Monday appointed nine people --- none of them hospital executives, and only one of whom appears to have significant medical experience --- to a commission meant to examine the economics of health care and hospitals in Florida.

The appointments to Scott's Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding came as industry officials are still digesting the governor's call to have hospitals share profits like Major League Baseball teams if federal officials decide not to extend a $2.2 billion program that helps pay for the care of uninsured patients.

The nine people named to the panel, which is aimed at making recommendations for a special legislative session scheduled to begin June 1, are Carlos Beruff, president of Medallion homes, who will be the chairman; former SunTrust Bank executive Tom Kuntz; retired Brig. Gen. Chip Diehl; attorney Marili Cancio Johnson; former Gadsden County Commissioner Eugene Lamb Jr.; Jason Rosenburg, a physician and former chairman of the Florida Board of Medicine; Ken Smith, owner of Integrated Beef Consultants; former Destin Mayor Sam Seevers; and Robert Spottswood, president and director of Spottswood Companies, which has interests that include real estate and hospitality.

Scott, a former hospital chief executive officer, put together the commission after lawmakers ended the 2015 legislative session without a budget due to a complicated stalemate over health-care funding.

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department hasn't ruled on the state's application to extend the Low Income Pool, or LIP, program beyond a scheduled expiration date of June 30. The program mostly sends money to hospitals and other medical providers that care for large numbers of low-income patients. But the agency said last week that, at first blush, the state's application "falls short of key principles" that federal officials will consider when weighing the program's future.

Tony Carvalho, president of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, said Monday that the members of the commission looked to be "very competent people" despite the lack of health-care executives.

"We are disappointed that there were no hospital CEOs or financial experts on the commission," he said.

Lawmakers who had asked to serve on the commission were also turned aside by Scott's decision.

Funding for LIP is part of a complex health-care logjam that has left legislative leaders unable to reach agreement on a spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1. Hoping to encourage federal officials to approve the state's LIP proposal, the Senate offered a $2.8 billion initiative that would use Medicaid expansion funding to help low-income Floridians purchase private insurance.

But Scott and the House have fiercely opposed the expansion alternative, and the governor has sued the Obama administration in an effort to prevent federal officials from linking the LIP decision to Medicaid expansion.

The naming of the panel came after Scott on Friday proposed revenue sharing among Florida hospitals if LIP is not extended for another year.

"Your assistance in suggesting fair profit sharing to replace federal LIP funds at those institutions that rely on them most, like Shands Jacksonville, will be critical to keeping them up and running," he wrote in a letter to the president of the Florida Hospital Association. "This would be similar to how large market baseball teams share revenues with small market baseball teams."

Scott said he wanted the hospitals to submit three models by May 22, so that his Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding could consider them on May 26.

So far, industry groups have been cautious about the governor's initiative.

“We received the letter and will be issuing a response to Governor Scott this week," said Monica Corbett, a spokeswoman for the FHA.

The Florida Association of Children's Hospitals has a conference call scheduled for Wednesday to discuss the suggestion.

Carvalho didn't foreclose the possibility of some form of revenue sharing, but said the commission first needs to consider how much hospitals already contribute, including the hundreds of millions of dollars they pay in taxes.

"I think people will realize that hospitals are doing enormous amounts already," he said.