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Hospital war compromise headed to Senate floor

A compromise to the battle between hospitals for limited health care dollars is headed to the Senate floor for a vote after clearing the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

The agreement is the same one approved earlier this month by the Senate Health Regulation Committee and it would restructure the so-called LIP Council in the following ways:

--registered lobbyists would not be allowed to sit on the council

--the head of the council would be either the secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration or the secretary's appointee

--six new members would be added to the council: three would be appointed by the Senate President and three would be appointed to the House Speaker. Those appointees could not be affiliated with the agencies receiving LIP money and only one Senate and one House appointee could be a doctor.

Currently, the 17-member council includes representatives from private, public and teaching hospitals.

An HCA-funded group calling itself Floridians for Government Accountability has been funding TV ads and mailings pushing for the elimination of the LIP Council, saying it's a "board made up of special interests and lobbyists."

And the proposal, which is sponsored by Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, has drawn a lot of lobbying fire power, prompting Gaetz to joke at the bill's last stop that the proposal was its own "economic stimulus."

But while the issue lead to a standing-room only crowd Thursday, the compromise was approved with little debate.

"I've been to funerals that have been noisier than this," said Sen. Durell Peaden, a Crestview Republican and Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee chairman. "No one would like to say 'yay' or 'nay' or something?"