Gov. Rick Scott fired a warning shot yesterday and ignited what seems like just one Floridian battle in the national war on public institutions.
Whether it's congressmen feuding over federal funds for National Public Radio and Planned Parenthood or state leaders stripping unions of collective bargaining rights, a fierce anti-public sentiment has spastically pervaded the GOP and many right-wing supporters. As our own Leslie Minora reported earlier, Scott took the fight to public hospitals yesterday when he ordered a study to examine the possible abolition of government-owned hospitals in Florida.
Scott seemed subtly hostile toward public hospitals even before he took the oath of office in January. In December, his health care transition team issued a report that questioned if government should be in the business of providing hospital services to people who can't afford to pay.
Now, a commission appointed by Scott will conduct a study on whether the state could save money if privately owned hospitals began caring for all the uninsured and poor people, a burden usually shouldered by public hospitals.
And with those poorer patients would come that bigger chunk of tax dollars, which Scott fought for to no avail when he ran a hospital company that defrauded the federal government out of almost $2 billion. Broward County alone collects $200 million in local property taxes to run its nine hospitals, according to the Sun-Sentinel. If these measly public hospitals weren't hogging all the tax dollars, maybe Scott's company wouldn't have had to rob Medicare blind.
But as governor, the former corporate hospital executive can use formalities, such as "reports" and "studies," in pursuit of his goal to secure more tax dollars for privately run hospitals. The December report came from his health care transition team, conveniently headed by fallen Broward politico Alan Levine, who is currently the senior vice president of another private hospital chain.
Did anyone really think that was an "independent" report? Does anyone doubt a conclusion favoring private hospitals in this next study?
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Florida is a big place, and some counties may benefit more from private hospitals than from government-owned facilities. But to search for a blanket approach displays ideological obduracy bordering on plutocratic deviousness.
While Scott's commission "studies" the virtues of private hospitals and pitfalls of public ones, some Floridians will be studying whatever incentives may sacrifice the study's independence.