Politics

Health Care Summit: Florida Must Do Health-Care Overhaul Right

By: Jim Turner | Posted: January 11, 2013 3:55 AM
Michael Millenson, Joe Negron and Tom Feeney

President of Health Care Quality Advisors Michael Millenson, Sen. Joe Negron and Associated Industries of Florida President Tom Feeney

Unless Florida does health care right, the economy won’t prosper.

Florida must deal with mounting Medicaid costs or face the prospect that employers won't grow and will flee to another state or country. That was the no-nonsense message for attendees at a summit in Orlando focusing on how the state should respond to the federal health care overhaul and growing Medicaid costs.

But just what is right remains a myriad of opinions.

With Florida still undecided on how to respond to the massive White House health care change, and Gov. Rick Scott expected to continue talks with federal officials on the subject, Michael Millenson, president of Health Care Quality Advisors, warned that improving the quality of care and eliminating waste should be the focus of any overhaul

Millenson noted that the Institute of Medicine has estimated that 50 cents out of every chronic-care-dollar in the U.S. is wasted through fraud to excessive administrative costs, unnecessary costs, ineffective services, and overtreatment of those who have coverage.

“It’s a hidden tax on business,” Millenson said. “It takes away money that could be invested in the business. It takes away money from the average worker’s paycheck. It weakens us as an economy. It weakens us as a country.”

He estimated that with $2.8 trillion spent annually on health care, the waste would come to $52.9 billion if averaged equally.

Associated Industries of Florida President Tom Feeney said the federal overhaul should be seen as an opportunity.

The business advocacy group -- its Foundation is sponsoring the summit at the World Center Marriott -- continues to craft its policy objectives for the 2013 legislative session.

Feeney said much of what Millenson advocated may be in their recommendations.

“If you don’t have an affordable, efficient, value-driven system, you may not have a private system in Florida,” Feeney said.

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who is directing the state Senate’s response to the Affordable Care Act, remains confident that the U.S. government will give Florida a waiver to decide how Medicaid money is directed in the Sunshine State.

The question, he said, is how much.

“Some of our concepts in our waiver, I do think, are still in play,” Negron said. “So I haven’t given up on the hope that Washington will treat us as an equal partner rather than dictate unilateral terms of surrender.”

The federal government has yet to rule on the state’s request for a waiver allowing Florida to have full say over the Medicaid money. Florida would like to be able to use the money to direct Medicaid recipients into private managed-care companies.

The federal government has resisted the request and after Gov. Rick Scott met last Monday with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the message from D.C. appeared to be that the state should agree to run a health care exchange as outlined in the Affordable Care Act.

According to Politico, an official from Sebelius’ office “encouraged Governor Scott to work in partnership with the federal government to run the new health insurance marketplace, which will deliver quality, affordable coverage to Florida consumers. She also reiterated her commitment to flexibility as HHS works with states to continue implementing the Affordable Care Act.”

Scott and state legislative leaders, who have opposed the massive health care overhaul from the White House, remain hostile to the state establishing its own exchange.

Instead, Negron said the state may be able to rework its waiver request, noting Texas has been able to implement a shared-savings model, putting a more pay-for-performance model into Medicaid -- one that is designed to improve health-care quality and efficiency while penalizing doctors and hospitals for preventable readmissions and complications.

“Maybe if the federal government would allow us to take the money they would send us for Medicaid expansion, but empower people to then go to an exchange and purchase whatever health-care coverage they thought was best for them, I think that is an intriguing concept,” Negron said.

Negron, attending the Foundation of Associated Industries of Florida’s Health Care Summit in Orlando, chairs the Senate’s Select Committee on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The committee will hear from small- and large-business owners on the cost of health care on Monday.

After listening to panelists discuss the expansive federal health-care law on Thursday, Negron said the following is evident: hospitals would prefer patients who are covered by Medicaid rather than those who have no coverage; prevention must be stressed; and while medical services are strong in Florida, it is still up to individuals to manage their own health care.



Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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