State legislators want to stop part of law reallocating hospital funds

The 3-year-old law's hospital funding provision takes affect July 1

By Joy Purdy - 5:30, 6:30 & 11 p.m. anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It sounded like a good idea to state lawmakers three years ago; have managed care companies service Medicaid patients, rather than the state serving them through hospitals.

That move meant reallocating state funds. However, no one realized the huge economic impact that move will have on hospitals statewide, including at least two in Jacksonville.

Now efforts are underway in Tallahassee to put part of this law on hold before it's set to take affect July 1.

This week the entire Duval County legislative delegation signed a joint resolution, explaining to the rest of their capitol hill colleagues why this portion of the law needs to be stopped before it starts.

UF Health Jacksonville, formally known as Shands, and Wolfson Children's Hospital will both lose millions in state funding July 1 under this law passed three years ago.

The state will then redistribute those funds to other hospitals across Florida.

Wolfson President Michael Aubin said the original purpose of this law was to have managed care companies service all medicaid patients by this summer, instead of having them managed by the state through hospitals.

"What's happened is that there's always some times when you write a law three years ago, there are unintended consequences," Aubin said as he explains Wolfson has just been able to calculate the economic impact of the money moves.

"It will be a reduction to the [Wolfson] Children's Hospital of over $4 million, which we use to care for those who are uninsured or underinsured," Aubin said.

If the funding provision, known as tiering, kids in this summer, UF Health Jacksonville will lose $38 million.

UF Health Jacksonville's CEO Russell Armistead said they'd be at risk of closing.

"The good news for us is we're stable, but if we lose $38 million I don't have the reserves to manage that over the next year," Armistead told Channel 4.

Fortunately, both hospitals have locally based state lawmakers fighting for the facilities' funds. The resolution the group signed would stop, or at least delay this portion of the law.

Wolfson's CEO said if their request is granted, it would give time for more research.

"It's clearly in the control of the Legislature and the governor to really stop this," Aubin stated. "Let the program work the way it has worked historically, and let's reconvene a group and try to make it work right the next time."

The challenge now is the Florida Legislature is off next week, then has just two weeks left before it's session ends.

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