Healthcare: Economics Lesson- Southeast- March 2004
Fort Lauderdale lawyer Thomas Panza, who represents the university, says the decision is not related to billing errors that will require the university to reimburse the state for $4.2 million in overcharges for the second time in five years.
Panza says the move follows months of discussions among university leaders as to whether running a 90-employee clinic as a community service was providing enough of a benefit to the psychology grad students to justify its existence. Aspects of running a community clinic, such as case management, which involves coordinating a multitude of client needs like housing and other social services, were not provided by students and did not really benefit the students, he says.
"You're running this whole big contraption to get this one benefit for the students," Panza says. The university will continue to run its other small specialty clinics that provide services on a sliding fee scale.
The decision came amid negotiations to reimburse the state's Department of Children & Families for overbillings Panza says are related to a computer glitch. The glitch caused the clinic to miscalculate how it billed for services provided by non-paid students, he says.
A similar problem led to an agreement to repay the state $4.2 million in cash and services in 1999. In both cases, Panza says, the problems were technical issues not related to services provided. The university provided far more services than it was reimbursed for, Panza says. "The university lost about $2 million a year on this program."
Pat Kramer, DCF's Broward County program supervisor for substance abuse and mental health programs, says state officials support the university's decision. For the past several years, she says, the university has had an increasingly difficult time balancing its obligation to students with its obligations to the community, she says. "It really has been a struggle at times to align those missions."
She says state officials and university leaders are working together to try to ensure a smooth transition for the clinic's patients and staff. As many employees as possible will be offered jobs in other DCF contract agencies around the county, Kramer says.
IN THE NEWS
Boca Raton -- School district officials are investigating how to recoup more than $180,000 invested in the now-defunct charter Academic School for the Arts. The district closed the school in December following a series of poor reviews and problems with low enrollment.
FLORIDA TRENDLINE?Palm Beach CountyHousehold Income
Palm Beach County has 11 municipalities with at least 20,000 residents each. Following are the 11 and the median household income for each:
Municipality2000 PopulationMedian Household IncomeWellington38,216$70,271Boca Raton74,764$60,248Palm Beach Gardens35,058$59,776Jupiter39,328$54,945Royal Palm Beach21,523$54,766Delray Beach60,020$43,371Boynton Beach60,389$39,845Greenacres27,569$36,941West Palm Beach82,103$36,774Riviera Beach29,884$32,111Lake Worth35,133$30,034Source: Palm Beach County Business Development BoardBroward County -- Schools Superintendent Frank Till is looking into whether a private food services company could help the school district save money on its school lunch program. The county's program prepares more food items from scratch than most school districts and has been lauded both for the quality and nutrition of its meals.
Davie -- Plans by Port St. Lucie -- A group of property owners has asked a panel of St. Lucie County judges to stop city officials from going forward with plans for a sewage treatment plant on grounds that the 408-acre site for the facility was illegally annexed. City officials say unless plans for the treatment facility move forward, the county will run out of sewage capacity in northern Port St. Lucie within two years.
The city will spend $1.8 million for a 10-acre parcel along the St. Lucie River as part of a plan to develop a riverfront entertainment district.
The county's first full-service cancer treatment center, a $4.2-million, 7,800-sq.-ft. facility, is scheduled to begin treating patients this summer. The center is a project of Martin Memorial Health Systems.
Royal Palm Beach -- A revised growth plan for rural west Palm Beach County features a scaled-down vision for residential and retail development more in keeping with the area's rural, equestrian character. Last year's controversial plan for 2 million square feet of construction has been reduced to about 775,000 square feet of homes and shops.
Stuart -- All Care Medical Supply and Interactive Cardio Pulmonary Inc., a home medical and respiratory services company, has been purchased by Walgreen's. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Tequesta -- The former plant manager for the Sandy Pines children's psychiatric hospital has sued his former employers, charging that he was fired for raising concerns about allegedly abusive practices at the facility. Before he was fired, Richard Stern had been named the hospital's manager of the year.
SEEKING A NEW VISION
HOLLYWOOD -- City commissioners are considering a development moratorium for a stretch of State Road 7, also known as U.S. 441, to give them time to develop a new vision for the heavily traveled roadway, which is blotted with used-car lots, cigarette stores and pawnshops.
COOPER CITY -- Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne will supervise Cooper City's fire and police departments, over the objections of some residents who wanted to keep the city's departments. City officials believe the merger will save money and improve service.