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pinion Letter to the Editor: An Urgent Plea for the Future of Florida


Currently in the Florida legislature there are two bills in both the House and the Senate that would drastically reduce state healthcare reimbursements to hospitals throughout our great state.  If either of these bills become law, the future of our state's economy will be greatly impacted in such a manner that no Floridian will escape the negative consequences.  I have never been a fan of socialized healthcare and I personally favor limited government involvement in the public and private sectors, but this being said, I feel strongly that the slashing of state healthcare reimbursements will financially cripple Florida.  This issue transcends political and ideological lines as the future of every Floridian hangs in the balance.

We Floridians take care of our own.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in our hospitals all across the state.  Our healthcare system is a great model for other states of privatized healthcare working with limited state funding to ensure that everyone who walks through the door of a hospital in Florida will get the healthcare treatment they need.  In addition to our current healthcare system ensuring every Floridian needing hospital care is taken care of, this same sector is one of the lone bright spots in the Florida economy.  As our state unemployment rate hovers at 10% which is well above the national average, the healthcare sector is one the few sectors that has actually created jobs.  This positive trend in an otherwise dismal landscape will all change if either of the two aforementioned bills should be passed.

Last year, this same Florida legislature cut healthcare reimbursements by approximately half a billion dollars, this move resulted in a frantic reorganizing of hospital budgets across the state.  With numerous Floridians unemployed and not possessing health insurance, our hospitals still managed to provide excellent healthcare to all, as they tightened their proverbial belts and continued to work through the difficulties.  These cuts did not come without major implications to our hospitals caregivers though, because workloads increased, pay decreased, and many free public services were diminished.  As it stands right now, our nurses and other hospital staff members are providing healthcare services with their roles and responsibilities pushed to the limit.

If either of these two bills were passed, the results will be horrendous as the only option for survival for Florida hospitals will be to eliminate healthcare jobs and discontinue certain healthcare services.  Obviously not only does this affect the Florida economy as a whole, but also will decrease efficiency in hospitals. Healthcare staff who do not find themselves on the unemployment line, will be overburdened with more of a patient load and responsibility.  This will naturally result in longer wait times for patients.  Patients do not like to wait in the ER lobby for two hours, they surely wouldn't want to wait for two days would they?  While this ER scenario I give may seem a bit far fetched, please consider the following:  the federal government recently tied federal healthcare reimbursements to patient satisfaction scores which are taken from patient surveys given after a hospital visit.  If the Florida legislature cuts state funding, and the healthcare workforce is reduced resulting in overburdened healthcare workers, the next logical domino to fall is patient satisfaction.  If patient satisfaction scores fall, then the federal government will not reimburse up to 30% of normal expenditures to a hospital.  So you can see that the bills proposed by the Florida legislature coupled with the new federal reimbursement rules, could result in a vicious downward spiral that rapidly increases its rate of descent.

Finally, if this scenario plays out, patient wait times could triple to say the least, appointments might have to made six months to a year in advance, healthcare in this great state could degrade and even worse, our elderly may have to wait even longer for healthcare.  Unfortunately, we have begun to see this trend across the country in regards to transplants, we have begun seeing the elderly and retirees get bumped to the back of the list for transplants due to their age.  This should not be, but it is a trend that is happening because of financial difficulties, and there is a very real possibility, that should the scenario listed above unfold, the very same could happen to our aged patients for other healthcare procedures and appointments.  Folks, I know I have painted a grim picture, but it doesn't have to be this way, please call your state House and Senate representatives and let them know, that last years cuts were enough!  Regardless of your political affiliation, this is an issue that will affect every one of us.  Please, please make your voice known to our state leaders, let them hear your disapproval of more healthcare cuts.  If either one of these bills pass, it will be signed with one single stroke of a pen, that single stroke of a pen could have disastrous results for our loved ones and all who are proud to call Florida their home.

Derrick VanKampen


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