Tampa-area hospitals are still waiting to see if Florida’s legislative leaders will OK a plan that would divert local tax money currently used to treat the area’s poorest patients.
Florida’s House and Senate should vote Thursday on a final budget that would put a portion of sales tax money from Hillsborough and two dozen other counties into a statewide pool to help reimburse hospitals for treating Medicaid patients.
The proposed amount – part of a new payment formula for Florida hospitals – is not as bad as initially expected. The $41 million taken from local counties is far smaller than the $245 million initially proposed by the Senate, said Tony Carvalho, president of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida.
If passed, the change will start July 1. And it will be a sudden, significant change to a few urban hospitals that serve a large share of poor patients, Carvalho said.
“It is $41 million that those hospitals will lose and have to share,” he said of the 14-hospital coalition that includes Tampa General Hospital. “The precedent is not a good one.”
Locally, Hillsborough will receive $2.2 million less than it did last year. It translates into a $1.32 million loss for Tampa General and a $700,000 loss at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa.
The County Commission last week sent a letter opposing the diversion of the local tax, created in 1991 to set up a preventive health care plan for uninsured residents and to help pay local hospitals that treat the uninsured. In 2012, the tax raised $93.8 million.