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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Rick Scott's Commission on Health Care and Hospital Funding released its long-awaited draft observations Tuesday, citing a lack of transparency and cost controls as major issues needing action.
Commission chairman Carlos Beruff said, however, that the nine-member commission has more questions than answers after months of studying the health care industry.
"We've had lots of discussions. There's a lot more work to do in health care. It's just the beginning," Beruff said.
The six-page draft summary of observations follows eight months, 15 public meetings and testimony from numerous public and health care professionals. In addition to observations of a lack of transparency and cost controls, the panel found, among other things, a persistent influence of government regulation in health care.
Beruff said after Tuesday's meeting in the Cabinet Meeting Room at the state Capitol that the group issued observations rather than recommendations in line with its capabilities. Only one medical doctor was on the commission.
"We have a responsibility to regulate for safety without question but we have no business getting into the business of patient care," Beruff said.
Gov. Scott was in DeLand on Tuesday at a ceremony honoring Florida veterans.
Lauren Schenone, the deputy press secretary for Gov. Scott, said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press: "Gov. Scott thanks the commission for their work to increase transparency for Florida hospitals and empower patients to fight against hospital price gouging."
The commission devoted most of its attention to price transparency. But as Sen. Don Gaetz noted price transparency or reforming certificate of need practices aren't going to be the silver bullets that will suddenly make health care affordable.
The commission was formed last May by the governor amid significant differences between his office and the House and Senate on what to do with health care.
In last year's session the Senate voted to expand Medicaid coverage access. The House and Governor were against it. There is a similar measure before the House this session but Gaetz thinks it will go nowhere. Gaetz noted that currently 42 percent of the state's budget is related to health care.
"The idea of expanding access to care by providing health insurance coverage to the uninsured is dead in Florida, certainly for three years, maybe for five," said Gaetz, who spoke before the commission to give it the state Senate's perspective on issues in health care.
That is why the focus during this legislative session has moved to other issues, including price transparency and market competition. A bill which would increase the availability of health care costs and quality of service, was approved by the Senate's Health Policy committee on Tuesday afternoon.
Among the other issues that both chambers are considering:
— Promoting access to care by diminishing or eliminating certificates of need.
— Loosening rules for new or replacement hospitals in rural areas.
— Expanding the use of alternate site ambulatory surgery centers.
— Limiting the use of taxpayer funds for compensation packages to hospital executives.
"Providing a price list of all the items on the menu to a healthy man doesn't guarantee he gets fed. You have to provide access, make sure services are available, that they are qualitative and people can afford them," Gaetz said.
Gaetz said by focusing on other issues related to health care, he is confident that all sides can find common ground and that progress will be made this session.
"Health care is a huge, never ending and never solved issue. A lot of these pieces of legislation are lead bullets and we need to fire them," he said.
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