Hospitals fear impact on the smallest patients in House plan to cut $514M from state budget

There’s a plan in the Florida Senate to slash nearly $300-million in Medicaid payments for hospitals across the state, but a House plan cuts even deeper.

The House plan proposes more than $500-million in cuts, primarily to the Critical Care Fund, where the state’s Advanced neonatal intensive care units can be found.

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New parents Federico Peguero and Jomary Tavarez are grateful for the world-class advanced neonatal care offered at Orlando Health.

Last November, they were finally able to take their baby home after six months in the NICU at Winnie Palmer Hospital

“It was a long journey,” Peguero says. “Two weeks turned into months, and now we’re here,” Tavarez adds.

Just 12 ounces at birth, their micro-preemie Diana is believed to be one of the world’s smallest surviving babies.

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Justin Senior is the CEO of Safety Net Hospitals, which oversees Orlando Health and Halifax Health. He says the cuts proposed by the house are like nothing he’s seen since the last recession.

“I don’t remember cuts at this level even back then,” Senior says.

He credits a drop in infant mortality rates over the past decade to that critical care at the state’s advanced NICUs, and worries the proposed cuts could change that.

For Orlando Health, it equals the loss of about $38-million, affecting both insured and uninsured patients.

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Senior says critical care funding not only impacts the ability to maintain advanced NICUs, but also transplant units, and other complex procedures often needed in a crisis.

“That type of cut really stings and really does undercut the investment in advanced NICU,” Senior says. “Which really does affect the state overall in terms of infant mortality and in terms of public health.”

Senior says they expect to learn if the cuts make the state’s final budget within the next few weeks.