October 3, 2022

Florida lawmakers seen to strip $561 million from hospital, health care system budgets

Florida health care system advocates are urging state lawmakers to reconsider budget cuts that could slash hundreds of millions of dollars from hospitals across the state.

According to the Florida Hospital Association, the heath care budget proposal in the Florida House of Representatives would cut $561 million from hospital and health care systems. The state Senate’s plan does not call for any cuts to hospital funding.

FHA President Mary Mayhew said the majority of the cuts are due to proposed changes to how Medicaid reimbursement funds are used.

“The payments to hospitals, by the way, pays for the salaries of our nurses, our physicians, our physical therapists, our emergency department staff,” Mayhew told FOX 13, adding she’s not sure why the state is looking to cut hospital funding while the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing and the state’s economy is showing positive revenue numbers. “If you had a shortfall, if you had a hole in your state budget, you would look at ways to cut. But that’s not the case in terms of where we are with the state. Thankfully, we’ve got a very robust economy in Florida.”

More than $10 million of the proposed cuts in the Florida House plan would impact hospitals in Tampa Bay.

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Earlier this month, Republican Rep. Bryan Avila, who chairs the committee determining the state’s health care budget, said hospitals have already received about $3 billion in federal funding during the pandemic and will get billions more this year.

Avila is proposing to shift funds to programs he believes would bring more doctors and nurses into local hospitals, addressing major staffing problems.

“The intent is to solve a problem that is only going to get worse and that being the staffing shortages,” Avila told committee members February 3, adding most hospitals didn’t struggle for money during the last year. “That translated certainly into the second-best year in the past decade in terms of their revenue.”

According to Mayhew, lawmakers proposed similar cuts last year before eventually reconsidering that plan. She said now is not the time to take money away from health care systems, with the pandemic ongoing.

“The reality is, you want financially strong and stable hospitals,” Mayhew said. “That’s why the hospitals in Florida were able to so successfully respond to the pandemic to hire the additional staff to set up the vaccination sites, the testing sites. You don’t want hospitals hemorrhaging red ink and then have to depend on them in a crisis.”