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Senators agree to change hospital Medicaid formula

For the past week, safety net hospitals have blasted the Senate's formulas for reimbursing hospitals under a new Medicaid payment system. Today, senators begrudgingly approved the new formula while vowing to change it during the budget process.

Four South Florida senators voted against SB 1520: Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, and Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Coral Gables. It was approved 35-4 after an hour of questions and debate.

"I think many of us standing up questioning the bill we’re trying to defend our public hospitals, I know I am," said Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice.

Members will get that chance starting next week as the House and the Senate work together to iron out a budget compromise. Safety net hospitals have said they prefer the House's formula for the new payment system, known as diagnosis-related groups or DRG. This is one of the few areas of the budget where the House and the Senate have taken markedly different approaches.

Safety net hospitals, including teaching and children's facilities, would earn $136.5 million less in the Senate's proposal compared to the Houses, according to the most recent analysis by the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida. Meanwhile, the Senate's proposal gives for-profit hospitals $42.3 million more compared to the House's.

Amy Maguire, a vice president at St. Petersburg's All Children's Hospital, said she was encouraged to hear both Republicans and Democrats says the Senate's formula needed changes.

"I think they're in recognition now of the impact this would have on hospitals, especially our high Medicaid providers and children's hospitals," she said.