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Gov. Rick Scott officially convenes commission on hospital spending

ScottAs promised, Gov. Rick Scott is convening a commission to look at taxpayer-supported hospitals.

Scott first pitched the idea in April, amid a still-unresolved clash between the House and Senate over healthcare funding. He officially created the new Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding in an executive order Tuesday.

The group has been tasked with investigating "the role of taxpayer funding for hospitals, insurers and healthcare providers, and the affordability, access and quality of healthcare services they provide to Florida families as a return on taxpayer investment."

The governor also wants the commission to investigate "the extent to which taxpayer-funded hospitals pay for lobbyists, campaign contributions and advertising."

Democrats were quick to bring up the fact that Scott resigned as CEO of a for-profit hospital chain after federal agents went public with an investigation into the company in 1997. The company, Columbia/HCA, would later plead guilty and paid a record $1.7 billion in government penalties and fines.

"Now, Rick Scott — who resigned from the health care company he founded amid federal fraud investigations — has decided his time would be well spent auditing the books of Florida hospitals," Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant said in a statement. "How does that help resolve the gridlock in the legislature? The only hospital management advice Rick Scott knows how to offer is training executives how to fleece the federal government for billions."

Scott's three-page executive order notes that Florida’s Medicaid program costs $23.6 billion — nearly one-third of the state budget.

"To spend taxpayer dollars wisely and maximize the affordability, access and quality of healthcare for Florida families, it remains the intent of this administration to continue developing cost-effective, patient-centered approaches for making healthcare services more responsive to the needs of Florida families and to lessen the regulations of government," the document states.

It also highlights executive compensation.

"It is appropriate and necessary to review Florida hospitals, insurance and healthcare providers and how any taxpayer money and government polices contribute to the quality, profits (including executive compensation packages), and losses of these institutions, and their impact on the affordability, access and quality of healthcare services for Florida families."

Tuesday's executive order did not specify how many members would be appointed to the commission, what kind of qualifications would be required, or when the group would begin meeting. It did, however, say that all members of the commission, its chair and its executive director would be appointed by the governor.

At least one person has already expressed interest: Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla.

Hays said he hadn't yet applied for the post or dug into the executive order.

"The governor knows that I have volunteered to serve, so I’ll be happy to serve if he chooses me," he said.

His reason for wanting to participate?

"Almost $24 billion tax dollars are being spent each year on health care in the state of Florida, and I feel like the public deserves a very good accounting of where that money goes," he said Tuesday. "And I think this commission can play a very key role in clearing up some of the misconceptions that are out there, whether it be on the part of the hospitals thinking they deserve more funding or whether that be on the part of the public thinking there needs to be more money."

Read the executive order here.