According to the Times Union, there is worry and unrest amongst Jacksonville business and health leaders that UF Health Jacksonville will have to shut it’s doors if there is not an authorization of money to fund what is known as the Low Income Pool, or LIP. Armistead (chief executive of UF Health Jacksonville) Greene I(president and CEO of Baptist Health) and Delaney (chairman of the JAX Chamber) told the Times-Union editorial board last week that UF Health Jacksonville — the safety net hospital that serves Jacksonville and adjacent counties — will close if the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott can’t find a path for continuing to receive critically needed federal money from the LIP. According to Armistead if he can’t get the $95 million, he will have to close the hospital doors in six months. Not only will there be a loss of a critically needed hospital, but the 90,000 emergency patients that go there annually would have to turn to other hospitals. Greene told the Times Union that the other local hospitals do not have the room to deal with the extra influx of patients that would be diverted to their hospitals. The men gave other examples of what would occur if there was no UF Health Jacksonville: 5,000 jobs would be lost; the resident doctors who train there, many of whom elect to stay in Jacksonville, would be gone; and the hospital’s highly acclaimed Trauma One Center would cease to exist. The closest Trauma One Center to Jacksonville would be in Gainesville.
What is the problem? The LIP money and Medicaid expansion are tangled up in Tallahassee with no bold solution in sight to get through it. The House is refusing to accept the $50 billion from the federal government that would come with Medicaid expansion, which could lead to a compromise on LIP. Gov. Rick Scott changes his position almost daily.
And the Senate, which favors a form of Medicaid expansion supported by business groups, is not happy with Scott or the House. Meanwhile, 800,000 poor Floridians will continue to go without health insurance. And UF Health Jacksonville, which treats most of Jacksonville’s poor, could end up shuttered.
UF Health Jacksonville has come a long way from its former self, University Hospital. It’s now a top-notch teaching facility that has managed to turn a small profit in the last couple of years even though only 10 percent of its patients have health insurance. Putting the LIP controversy aside, even though the hospital’s buildings are city-owned, Jacksonville has never done right by the hospital. For years, the city’s contribution for treating the city’s poor has stagnated at about $26 million a year.Many of the other safety net hospitals in Florida can rely on special taxing districts or sales tax proceeds to help fund them. For example, Broward County’s hospital taxing districts collect $164 million yearly.
If the Legislature and Scott come to their senses and UF Health Jacksonville survives the LIP scare, the city should take an honest look in the mirror about what it should be contributing to the hospital.
Many of our clients end up getting treated at UF Health Jacksonville. We hope the state legislature and the Governor come to a compromise and fund UF Health Jacksonville.