In the News
Aug 23 2011
CHRIS SEGAL (Panama City News Herald)
PANAMA CITY — Congressman Steve Southerland launched a series of conversations with medical providers Tuesday by hosting a roundtable discussion at the Bay County Government Building.
“We had a cross-section of people, including those from hospitals, doctors, pharmacists and members of the AARP,” Southerland said. “The whole purpose was to hear their challenges on their day-to-day operation. This was more informational for me.”
The medical roundtable, which will be followed by similar meetings in Leon and Jackson counties, was intended to gather information and learn more about the potential impacts Medicare cuts may have on local providers and the community.
“There is a lot of concern with reimbursements to Medicare,” said Southerland, R-Panama City. “What the cuts will produce, which will be a reduction of services, and that’s a great concern.”
The overwhelming suggestion from the medical community was to not cut Medicare reimbursement rates, Southerland said.
“It was good for him to take the time to hear us,” said Gulf Coast Medical Center President and CEO Brian Baumgardner. “We talked about the current budget deficit and the potential impact.”
Bay Medical Center President and CEO Steve Johnson described the roundtable as a listening session on Medicare and Medicaid.
Southerland “set the stage and then he was the listener,” Johnson said. “The crux of the meeting was for him to learn what troubles us the most and keeps us awake at night.”
In the case of Bay Medical Center, the trouble stems from the $30 million in uncompensated care the hospital provides. Baumgardner informed Southerland that HCA, the parent company of Gulf Coast Medical Center, is the largest provider of uncompensated care for the state of Florida.
Johnson outlined for the congressman issues with the Low Income Pool program that funds Medicaid for the state. The state of Florida has applied for a three-year wavier, and if it is not approved, it would cost the state $1 billion, Johnson said.
Another concern identified was the level of fraud to Medicare that has plagued other parts of the state, especially South Florida.
“I also wanted them all to know about the building economic pressure,” Southerland said. “As the health care bill continues to crank to 2014, we are going to see a shift in Medicare dollars to Medicaid dollars, putting a larger burden on states.”
Despite the negative economic outlook for medical providers and hospitals, some recently announced positive news was the addition of 325 new residency slots in Florida.
“That is recognition of a population shift and that we are growing; we need more doctors,” Southerland said.
The new residency slots are expected to help retain doctors in Florida. Southerland explained that many doctors do not practice medicine near the medical school they attended; they instead opt more often to stay close to the site of their medical residency.
“If doctors stayed in the area, rural counties get better care,” Southerland said.
The roundtable discussions with medical providers in Bay County are expected to continue, with meetings every several months. The goal was to have a conversation with each other, Southerland said.
“It’s fairly grounding when you have everyone together and you have everyone talking about how the cuts are going to affect them,” Baumgardner said.