The Tampa Bay Times recently purchased the Tampa Tribune. Amid its consolidation of nearly all daily, home delivered print media it claimed: “we recently expanded the opinion pages to include more conservative commentary, so that readers can find views from all points of the political spectrum”. Well, the hypocrisy and bait and switch is on full display. Recently the Tampa Bay Times ran a completely untrue and biased hit piece against Bafront Medical Center. They continued to push the false narrative that the “for-profit” label was damaging charity care. We at Sunbeam Times ran a truth check and rated their claims false (part I) and hence labelled it “Under a Rock (part II)”. The Times then published a major editorial, trading on the false narrative they created with their liberal friends entitled “Profits over charity at Bayfront“.
As a member of the medical staff, past Medical staff leader and analyst on this issue, I submitted an opinion editorial (op. ed.) to the Times. I was told that they would “take a pass” and that I must have noticed the new “diversity” on the editorial pages (I have not) and that space is still at a premium. So, with space at a premium, seven days after the original hit piece against Bayfront, the Times ran an editorial calling for new transit taxes from themselves and column echoing the exact same point by liberal Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long. The hypocrisy of this and the liberal narratives playing out in the Tampa Bay Times was called to task today by the American Spectator author Larry Thornberry just today! They couldn’t run a differing viewpoint disputing their numbers as part of their new “conservative diversity”.
In the spirit of completeness, here is the editorial supporting Bayfront’s outstanding record on charity and exposing the false narrative of superiority of “not-for-profit” hospitals’ charitable mission. This piece obviously had too many indisputable facts and common sense to be published by the Tampa Bay Times.
This has been a Liberal Hypocrisy Alert. Had this been an actual emergency your life would have been improved by the liberals – and yet it is worse.
You may now return to reality.
The Op. Ed. the Times refused to publish in their newly “diverse” more “conservative” editorial pages.
By David McKalip, M.D.
Bayfront Provides Most Indigent Care and Greatest Charitable Sacrifice
One St. Petersburg hospital made $34.4 million as excess revenues (profit) while being labelled “non-profit” and paying no income taxes in 2014. Another “non-profit” also was tax-exempt while making $52.9 million in 2014, All Children’s Hospital. Bayfront Medical Center, a hospital the liberal community and Times has railed against as “for profit”, had a 2014 profit of $28.7 million while paying $6 million in taxes and fees before it also was subject to Federal Income tax. But only Bayfront has been inaccurately targeted by the Times and the liberal political community as having profits rise out of proportion to the charity they provide. This despite the fact that Bayfront provides the most care to indigent patients of all Pinellas hospitals and the greatest amount of charity compared to profit of all three hospitals since 2012.
The Times and liberals have been railing against the purchase of Bayfront Medical Center by HMA in 2012 and Community Health Systems (CHS) in 2013 from day one, seemingly because they have the “for profit” label. They downplay that under prior management, Bayfront lost $12 million in 2012, was falling behind the region technologically and in danger of closure. The Times then published misleading numbers in a front page story on May 1, wrongly labelling an accounting number as the amount of “indigent” care provided. The Times printed “Indigent care as a percentage of the hospital’s business dipped from 5.1 percent to 3.2 percent”. In fact, the state reporting on “indigent care” showed that Bayfront Medical Center continues to provide the most of any adult hospital in Pinellas County at 25.3%. That is care provided to low income patients through Medicaid combined with that written off as “charity” (with no bill) – as found by the Governor’s Commission on Health Care and Hospital Funding.
A serious analysis of the amount of charitable activity by these St. Petersburg hospitals would consider more than an account number reported as “percent charity”. This analysis has been done at my local SunbeamTimes.com blog. The state calculates “percent charity” based on the dollar amount for which no bill will ever be issued compared to the total charges of the hospital. Florida government has pointed out that the total charges are not a reliable basis for the actual cost of care provided, yet the Times ignored this as well. Using the state numbers, even All Children’s Hospital should be subject to criticism by the Times. All children’s profits rose from the $1.5-$3 million range (2010-2011) to around $50 million (2013 and 2014). Yet, the Times has not complained that the state reported their charitable activity at 0.7% in 2014, down from 1.45% in 2011. After the takeover by Johns Hopkins in 2011, the hospital has written off only about $8 million annually as “charity”, paltry compared to Bayfront’s $51 million (3.2%) in 2014 after its change of management.
A more accurate reflection of charitable activity would be the amount of care provided for free. That would mean the amount never billed (state defined “charity”) added to the amount reported as “bad debt”(meaning the amount the hospital is never paid for its care). When comparing the free care to profit in this way, Bayfront Medical Center provided $62-$92 million annually and St. Anthony’s provided $90-99 million (2013-2014). Yet compared to profit, Bayfront provided a higher portion for free care with Bayfront at 9.89 times profit that year versus 3.58 times profit for St. Anthony’s in 2013. In 2014, Bayfront still beat St. Anthony’s in free care at 3.2 versus 2.8 times profit respectively. All Children’s wasn’t even close, providing less than 0.4 times its massive profit in free care every year (but they did provide a very high percent of indigent care receiving Medicaid dollars on top of a government subsidy for the care through millions of dollars from the “Low Income Pool”). One is reminded of the story of the widow’s mite where Jesus told his disciples that the two tiny coins from the poor widow was a much larger sacrifice proportionally to that provided by the wealthy.
What is even more ironic is that as Bayfront was saved from closure, St. Anthony’s finally started shouldering more of the free care so long provided by Bayfront at a loss. Before the HMA/CHS rescue of Bayfront, St. Anthony’s provided less than half the free care of Bayfront at that time and less than it does now – despite better profits for those years. The responsibility of providing for the poor has now been more fairly redistributed, but that doesn’t seem to be the kind of redistribution favored by the liberal community and their champion, the Times.
The Times can’t seem to accept that a hospital run “for profit”, that pays millions in taxes and rescues a dying hospital could actually also provide a high level of indigent and free care. The Times and liberal community want to continue their false narrative that the HMA and then CHS acquisition of the failing Bayfront was bad for charity. The facts state otherwise. Bayfront Medical Center should not be repeatedly attacked, but should be praised heavily for providing immense service to the community through charitable care all while keeping the premier hospital in St. Petersburg operating well and updated technologically.
Dr. McKalip is a solo, private practice neurological surgeon in St. Petersburg who receives no compensation from Bayfront Medical Center. Dr. McKalip served in Medical staff leadership at Bayfront from 2010-2012 and warned the administration of their financial collapse without a change in practice.