Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Shands President: We Have a Crisis; Hospital That Cares for City's Poor Losing Money on Half of Its Patients

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Shands President: We Have a Crisis; Hospital That Cares for City's Poor Losing Money on Half of Its Patients

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton

Shands Jacksonville, which provides care to the city's poor, is in a crisis situation after suffering an operating loss of more than $20 million during the fiscal year that ended June 30, the hospital's president said Wednesday.

The cost of treating uninsured and Medicaid patients has created the financial hardship for Shands Jacksonville and other safety net hospitals in the state, Jim Burkhart said in a Times-Union interview shortly after a panel discussion at the Caring Community Conference, an annual gathering to talk about health care policy on the First Coast.

Panelist Anthony Carvalho, president of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance, blamed the problem on inadequate compensation for Medicaid patients, who made up 36 percent of Shands Jacksonville's patient load last year, and on almost no compensation for the 14 percent of "self-pay" patients, which in almost all cases meant they paid nothing.

As a result, Shands Jacksonville lost money on half the patients it treated last year.

Carvalho, whose alliance represents 15 hospitals including Shands Jacksonville, said that group represents 10 percent of Florida hospitals but provides 40 percent of the state's "charity care," mostly free care to the uninsured. Meanwhile, the state, which has been slashing the Medicaid budget over the last eight years, pays only 39 percent of the actual cost of treating Medicaid patients, he said.

About 36 percent of Shands Jacksonville's patient load is covered by Medicare. Medicare reimbursements cover more of the hospital's costs than Medicaid but don't make up the deficit. For that, most hospitals rely on patients with commercial insurance. Only 10 percent of Shands Jacksonville's patients have commercial insurance, Carvalho said. That's compared to 20 percent for all Florida hospitals.

One of the reasons Shands is planning to build a new 100-bed hospital near the River City Marketplace is that officials believe that that hospital will draw a higher percentage of patients with commercial insurance, Burkhart said.

The state has been cutting Medicaid funds, and the city has not increased the $23. …

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