Health News Florida

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11:16 am
Thu May 21, 2015

FL Could Get Low Income Pool Funds

Vikki Wachino, director of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in a letter dated May 21 that Florida can likely expect $1 billion in the budget year that begins July 1 for the Low Income Pool.

Originally published on Thu May 21, 2015 4:51 pm

The Obama administration has made an offer that it hopes will resolve Florida’s $1 billion state budget stalemate over health care funds for poor people.

Federal health officials agreed to extend Florida’s hospital funds for another two years, but only at about half the amount the state received last year. That means Florida lawmakers may have to dip into the state budget to fill the gap or state hospitals will get less money in the coming year.

In a letter Thursday to Gov. Rick Scott, federal officials stressed that they would not use Low Income Pool hospital funds to cover anyone who could be covered by Medicaid expansion, but they also acknowledged the loss of those funds may be difficult for the state. The current hospital funds are $2.1 billion dollars, put up by the state and federal government. The administration’s preliminary offer drops that to $1 billion for the 2015-2016 fiscal year and to $600 million the following year.

The proposal is still subject to a formal review but federal officials said they wanted to work with the state in good faith, recognizing that the Legislature needs to pass a budget by June 30 to avoid a state government shutdown.

“The decision about whether or not to expand Medicaid is a state option … (R)egardless of whether a state expands Medicaid, uncompensated care pool funding should not pay for costs that would be covered in Medicaid expansion,” federal health officials said in the letter.

The funds, which are part of a federal program that covers the hospital bills of uninsured and Medicaid patients, were supposed to end this year as President Barack Obama’s health care program grew. Patients covered by the low-income pool were supposed to be covered by Medicaid, but the Florida House and Scott have balked at expanding it.

The bitter standoff between the Republican governor and the Obama administration tore apart the state legislative session, with the House abruptly adjourning three days early last month. Scott sued the Obama administration, comparing federal officials to the TV mobster show “The Sopranos” and accusing them of withholding the hospital funds because the state wouldn’t expand Medicaid.

The dispute created a $1 billion hole in the governor’s budget that should now be much easier for lawmakers to address when they return for a special session June 1.

Scott pressed for the extension for months, even visiting Washington twice and blaming the Obama administration for ruining his budget and ignoring his timeline even though he’s known for more than a year that the funds were ending. He waited until mid-April to submit a proposal, although the months-long required public comment period made it impossible to get an answer before the Legislature adjourned last month.

The Obama administration and hospitals want the governor to expand Medicaid to more than 800,000 low-income Floridians and will not spend federal hospital funds on those who would be covered by Medicaid expansion. That’s because federal health officials say it’s more efficient to use the money to give people health insurance than to pay hospitals for caring for the uninsured retroactively.

But Scott and Republican House leaders refuse to accept any money tied to the Affordable Care Act - including Medicaid expansion. They even snubbed a Senate proposal that would eventually take billions of federal dollars and allow the Medicaid expansion recipients to buy private health insurance - a solution that Scott has fought for in the past.

The House and Senate recently announced they would discuss Medicaid expansion during the special session, snubbing the governor’s call to focus only on the budget.

Senate leaders had prepared to move ahead with a health care coverage plan during the upcoming special session, but the announcement from the federal government bolsters the argument of House Republicans who maintained that the state would continue to receive a decent chunk of the hospital money without having to expand Medicaid.

During a recent closed-door session, House and Senate budget chiefs discussed the House’s objections to the Senate’s current proposal. Senate budget chief Tom Lee agreed there were “reasonable” concerns raised about the Senate plan.

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Health News Florida
9:14 am
Thu May 21, 2015

Punishment for Fatal Error a Tough Call

Justin Solnay with family poodle
Courtesy of Solnay Family

Originally published on Thu May 21, 2015 9:13 am

  Two years ago, a little boy with a leaky heart valve was rolled into the operating room at Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in Orlando.  Before starting surgery, as required, the team took a “Time Out.”

Doctors and nurses made sure they had the correct patient on the table – Justin Solnay, age 11 – and were planning the right procedure – replacing Justin’s weak aortic valve with a mechanical implant. They ran through the list; check, check and check.

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Health News Florida
9:32 am
Wed May 20, 2015

Hospitals To Scott: Look Up Financial Data

Originally published on Wed May 20, 2015 7:51 am

As Gov. Rick Scott's newly created health care commission prepares to meet today to begin sifting through data about hospital funding, the governor's request for information has been met with hospitals essentially telling him to go look it up.

 

Many of the dozens of surveys returned by hospitals have five or fewer of the roughly 100 lines filled out with new information. Officials frequently referred Scott back to information filed with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, which oversees much of the state's spending on health care.

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Health News Florida
10:43 am
Tue May 19, 2015

Hospitals Push Back On Revenue Sharing

Gov. Rick Scott

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 8:06 am

Florida hospitals fired back Monday against Gov. Rick Scott in the latest salvo over the governor's suggestion that the health-care facilities mimic professional baseball teams in sharing revenues.

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Health News Florida
9:28 am
Mon May 18, 2015

Hospitals Hesitant to Give Commission Data

Originally published on Mon May 18, 2015 10:28 am

Gov. Rick Scott, who last week asked the state's hospitals to provide a large amount of financial data by Monday, will not get all that he asked for that quickly. He may not get some of it at all.

Hospital executives and lawyers say they want to cooperate with Scott and his newly appointed Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding, which seeks data on services, profits, costs and patient outcomes. 

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Health News Florida
9:28 am
Mon May 18, 2015

Hospice Operator Can Reapply for License

Originally published on Mon May 18, 2015 8:45 am

Compassionate Care Hospice in Lakeland can restart operations soon, as Gov.

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Health News Florida
9:28 am
Mon May 18, 2015

Universities Look at Health Care Job Gaps

Florida needs more specialized nurses because more than half leave the state.

Originally published on Mon May 18, 2015 9:44 am

Health care’s a growing industry. But not all health care jobs are created equal.

The board that oversees Florida’s universities on Monday will look at whether Florida graduates enough health care workers to meet demand and it could lead to new programs. 

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Health News Florida
8:32 am
Fri May 15, 2015

FL Agency Heads Asked To Prep For Shutdown

Originally published on Fri May 15, 2015 8:46 am

Gov. Rick Scott told agency heads to prepare for the worst Thursday, asking them to list only the state’s most critical needs in the event the Legislature can’t reach an agreement on a budget that doesn’t expand health care to the poor.

Scott sent the letter to agency heads the day after lawmakers said they were making progress on a budget impasse that they’ll seek to resolve in a special session beginning June 1.

“Prepare a list of critical state services our citizens cannot lose in the event Florida is forced to shut down on July 1st,” Scott wrote.

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Health News Florida
8:29 am
Fri May 15, 2015

Monday Deadline For Hospital, Insurer Data

Originally published on Fri May 15, 2015 7:51 am

Gov. Rick Scott has given hospitals and health insurers less than a week to provide a wide range of data that will be considered by a newly formed commission on health care funding.

Scott sent a letter Wednesday to hospital and insurance-company executives requesting that they submit the data by Monday.

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Health News Florida
8:50 am
Thu May 14, 2015

Debt, Not Dreams Deciding Dentists' Future

Jenna Pascoli, a third-year dental student at the Lake Erie School of Dental Medicine in Bradenton, treats a student at the school's clinic. She's one of many dental students struggling with high student loan debt.

Originally published on Thu May 14, 2015 1:02 pm

Jenna Pascoli stands in a small, glass-paneled room inside the The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine School of Dental Medicine clinic in Bradenton and  pulls on a blue, paper medical gown over her scrubs.  

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Health News Florida
2:54 pm
Wed May 13, 2015

Police: FL Toddler Dies After Being Left In Hot Car

Dr. Beth Walford, a pediatric surgeon at All Children's Hospital, discusses the effects of heatstroke in children at a St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue and Suncoast Safe Kids Coalition event in June 2014.

Originally published on Wed May 13, 2015 3:50 pm

Authorities say a 16-month-old north Florida girl died when her father left her in the car after forgetting to drop her off at day care.

It's the second hot car death reported in the nation in 2015, and the first in Florida. 

Columbia County Sheriff's deputies responded to a 911 call Tuesday afternoon and found the child was unresponsive.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement identified the child's mother as Wendy Kwon, an assistant state attorney, and her father as Young Kwon, an assistant public defender.

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Health News Florida
10:24 am
Wed May 13, 2015

Congressional Hearing Planned On LIP Showdown

Originally published on Wed May 13, 2015 9:26 am

A congressional committee will hold a hearing on Gov. Rick Scott's showdown with the federal government over health care funding, but that meeting could come too late to help close a potential $2.2 billion hole in the state budget.

Scott announced Tuesday that U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., will have the House Energy & Commerce Committee look into the governor's allegations that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is trying to illegally coerce the state into accepting Medicaid expansion.

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Health News Florida
10:24 am
Wed May 13, 2015

Scott Takes Funding Fight Back to D.C.

Originally published on Wed May 13, 2015 9:25 am

Just days after flying to Washington in hopes of convincing the Obama administration to extend federal hospital funds, Gov. Rick Scott was back in the nation's capital Tuesday slamming federal health officials for denying his request.

The administration wants the Florida governor to expand Medicaid to more than 800,000 Floridians, which it says is a more efficient use of federal funds than paying hospitals retroactively for caring for the uninsured.

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Health News Florida
9:42 am
Tue May 12, 2015

Scott Names Hospital Panel Without Hospital Executives

Originally published on Tue May 12, 2015 9:37 am

  

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.

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Health News Florida
9:41 am
Tue May 12, 2015

Conjoined Twin Babies Separated At Jacksonville Hospital

Originally published on Tue May 12, 2015 8:59 am

For the first time in their 5-month-old lives, conjoined twins Carter and Conner squirmed in separate cribs.

The Jacksonville boys, who shared a liver and small intestine, were successfully separated Thursday after a 12-hour operation by three surgeons, five anesthesiologists and 12 other staffers.

Parents Michelle Brantley and Bryan Mirabal, whose lives were upended by the news that their twins were conjoined in the womb and then later struggled with the hope that they could be safely separated after birth, were all smiles following the operation.

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