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Hospitals Fighting Over County Health Contract

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Brevard County will today vote on a $56 million contract to provide health insurance to employees, which is stirring up controversy.

Brevard County commissioners will vote today on which insurance company will provide health insurance to their employees. The vote is generating a public fight between competing hospitals.

In Brevard County, Health First dominates: They own the largest hospital system, physicians and outpatient center. They also own the for-profit insurance company Health First Health Plans.

County officials are voting on who will provide insurance to their 8,700 employees and family members.

A committee recommended Brevard County pick a combination of Cigna and Health First Health Plans for the $56 million contract. Parrish Medical Center competes with Health First hospitals, and its CEO thinks going with Health First is a mistake.

George Mikitarian wrote a letter to county commissioners, pointing to ongoing antitrust lawsuits against Health First.

“All they do is push you to a Health First facility,” Mikitarian said in an interview. “And all of their facilities are far more expensive than other facilities in the community.”

Matthew Gerrell is vice president of marketing for Health First.vHe says the letter has been a distraction.

“The committee’s recommendation is the right one,” Gerrell said. “Mr. Mikitarian obviously has a differing opinion to the committee, but we believe the committee made the right choice.”

County officials vote today on the contract. Check here to download Mikitarian’s full letter, and check here to download Health First’s response.

Abe Aboraya is a reporter with WMFEin Orlando. WMFE is a part of Health News Florida, which receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.