Florida House considers a way to convert public hospital districts

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A House panel Wednesday supported a proposal that would create a process for public hospital districts to convert to non-profit organizations and require districts to study the financial feasibility of converting to non-profits or selling to for-profit companies.

The proposal (HB 1421), sponsored by Rep. Randy Fine, R-Brevard County, is positioned to go to the full House after getting approval from the State Affairs Committee.

But a Senate version (SB 1700) has not been heard in committees more than halfway through the 60-day legislative session.

Under current law, districts can sell or lease hospitals to other entities.

But Fine said they cannot convert to non-profit organizations.

The bill would allow districts, if they choose, to go through a conversion process.

Also, it would require all hospital districts to hire consultants to do financial evaluations of possible conversions or sales.

“We are not forcing them to do anything other than to gather information,” Fine said.

But Robin Bartleman, D-Weston, pointed to “public good” from public hospitals and said they shouldn’t have to go through the evaluations if communities don’t want changes.

“There are benefits to retaining a public hospital, as is,” Bartleman said.

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