Florida Hospital Funding Crisis

At Halifax Hospital in Daytona Beach, they can handle a medical crisis, but a financial one... well, that's where Dee Schaeffer comes in.

She's made the trek to Tallahassee in an attempt to scale back a 15 percent cut to Halifax's Medicaid funding.

"It has not impacted direct patient care, but we're very concerned, if these trends continue forward, what difficult choices will our board possibly be faced with making," she said.

Most of Florida's other public hospitals are faced with making those same difficult choices, which may ultimately include laying off doctors and nurses.

Making the fiscal emergency at Florida's public hospitals all the more acute is private hospitals taking a much bigger piece of the low-income funding pie. And politics may have a lot to do with it.

To help hospitals cope with declining federal funding, Florida runs what's known as the low-income pool. Every year, the state takes out a billion dollars and divides it among all the hospitals taking care of patients who can't take care of their bills.

But now, the legislature is giving much more of that money to private hospitals. In fact, they've given the chain founded by Governor Scott, HCA, a full 83 percent more than Dee and her colleagues on the low-income pool board recommended.

That means public hospitals are getting a whole lot less.

Health care activist Richard Polangin says Scott and lawmakers need to be reined in.

"They need a formula, they need criteria to follow, and they have not had that in the past, and they really need it now."

Which is why you'll find Dee at the Capitol come January, asking for more money and a more even playing field.

"Hopefully, hospitals will not continue to be expected to continue to do as much, if not more, with less," she said.

With their budgets on the verge of critical condition, it's a critical request.

Lobbyists for private hospitals say they deserve the extra money because they're taking care of more low-income patients.
Governor Scott, meanwhile, points out he no longer has any connections to HCA after resigning as CEO in the 90s.

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