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UF Health Jacksonville Among 66 Hospitals That Would Benefit From Governor’s Proposal

News Service of Florida
Gov. Ron DeSantis

Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed creating a program that would increase funding for high-performing hospitals, a move that could mean more money for 66 hospitals across Florida, according to an analysis by a statewide hospital association.

The Medicaid proposal - dubbed the Top Outcome for Patients, or TOP, program - was included in the $91.4 billion budget plan DeSantis’ unveiled last month.

DeSantis recommended spending $3.8 million on the initiative. When matched with federal funding, that would make available nearly $10 million.

Patrick Manderfield, a spokesman for the state Agency for Health Care Administration, told the News Service that to qualify for the additional payments, hospitals would either have to be listed in the annual U.S. News and World Report’s “Top Florida Hospitals” list or achieve a “5 Star” or “4 Star” rating in federal “Hospital Compare” ratings.

Eight hospitals would qualify because they meet both requirements, according to the analysis. But most hospitals that would benefit under the plan would qualify because they appear on the U.S. News and World Report list.

Hospitals, including some of the largest safety-net facilities in the state, praised DeSantis for the proposal.

More than 32 percent of the patients at UF Health Jacksonville are on Medicaid. If the plan passes, the hospital would see $364,734 in additional Medicaid payments in the coming year. UF Health Jacksonville would qualify for the additional funding because of its appearance on the magazine’s list of top hospitals.

Leon L. Haley Jr., chief executive officer of UF Health Jacksonville and dean of the UF College of Medicine-Jacksonville, said the governor’s plan “will help us further our mission, which is to heal, to comfort, to educate and to discover. We dedicate our work to improving the lives of those we touch through quality health care, medical education, innovation and research.”

DeSantis’ recommendation is just that, a recommendation. It still must be approved by the Legislature before it could take effect next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

While proposed funding changes can often cause fights within the hospital industry, Justin Senior, CEO of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, noted that DeSantis isn’t proposing to redirect existing funds. Instead, the governor is proposing additional funding.

“It’s not robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Senior said of the proposal.

Moreover, Senior said the initiative could work to incentivize some hospitals that don’t traditionally treat large numbers of Medicaid patients to do so. That’s because the payments would come in addition to Medicaid base rates that facilities are paid.

“It’s a way to get more top-quality hospitals into the Medicaid game,” he said.

It’s also a way to reward top-performing hospitals that already provide large amounts of Medicaid care.