By Kim Williams
Imagine you own a restaurant and are forced to charge your customers less than what it costs to make their meals. Now, imagine that you must serve every single patron who walks through your doors, including those who are unable to cover the cost of their food.
That is a difficult, and even downright impossible, way to sustain a business. But that is happening in Florida’s health care system right now.
Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured people in the nation. When those individuals get sick, they end up in the emergency room, often unable to pay for their care. Hospitals treat those patients, to the tune of almost $3 billion in 2013, but those costs must be covered somewhere. Every year, unmet costs are shifted to insured families and businesses in the form of rising health insurance premiums.
To make matters worse, costs for the state’s Medicaid program are on the rise. There are many different opinions as to why that is happening. But the simple fact is that Medicaid pays hospitals less than the cost of providing care.
When you combine these two critical funding problems, it adds up to bad news for Florida businesses and families. Just like the cost of uncompensated care, the difference between what Medicaid pays hospitals and what it actually costs hospitals to deliver care has to be made up somewhere. It all lands on the backs of those who pay for health insurance and businesses that pay for employees’ health care costs as “hidden tax”; it raises health insurance premiums around 8 percent, or $1,200, per year.
As a former hospital board member who understands the management and operation of hospitals, I can tell you that hospitals are working every day to reduce costs and improve patient care. Yet, when health care costs more than hospitals are paid to deliver care, it’s not sustainable unless someone is there to make up the loss.
Florida businesses and insured families cannot afford to continue making up for these losses. That is why I, along with statewide business associations, over 30 local chambers of commerce, 800 other business owners and 110,000 individuals, supported a plan put forth by the Florida Senate this past legislative session to extend health care coverage to 800,000 uninsured Floridians. The debate between the Senate and the House on how to best deal with Florida’s uninsured population and the rampant cost of uncompensated care brought session to a halt and lawmakers went home without a solution in place.
Legislators will be back in 2016 to once again tackle our state’s health care funding challenges. I encourage them, along with all other stakeholders, to strive for a health care system that is transparent, incentivizes preventative care and delivers better outcomes for patients at lower costs for Florida’s families and businesses.
Kim Williams is president of Marpan Supply & Marpan Recycling, a former chairman of the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce and a member of the A Healthy Florida Works coalition.
Published in The Tallahassee Democrat on October 5, 2015