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Jackson Health System solvent for first time in five years

Jackson Health System has enough money to pay its bills, administrators said this week in declaring Miami-Dade’s safety net hospitals financially solvent for the first time in five years.

Solvency is an important step on the path to Jackson’s continuing financial recovery, said Chief Executive Carlos Migoya in a memo to the Financial Recovery Board that oversees the hospital system.

“Our taxpayer-owners have good reason to be confident about Jackson’s future,’’ Migoya wrote in the memo.

He noted that Jackson’s current assets of $423.4 million exceed liabilities by about $3 million, providing the hospital system with enough money to pay vendors faster, which leads to discounts on goods and encourages more competitive bids.

Migoya also reported consecutive months of budget surpluses, including the most recent report for April, which showed a $5.9 million surplus — yet another indicator of financial recovery.

The April financials reflect a combination of unexpected revenues and efforts by Jackson administrators to reduce staff overtime and increase the number of uninsured patients applying for Medicaid and other forms of coverage.

Proceeds from the half-penny sales tax dedicated to Jackson were stronger than estimated, strengthening April’s bottom line numbers by about $1 million, Migoya wrote in the memo.

Jackson also received a $1.7 million contribution from the Jackson Memorial Foundation to fund renovations at the hospital system, including the neonatal intensive care unit at Holtz Children’s Hospital.

The improved numbers are a significant turnaround from spring 2011, when Jackson was close to financial collapse, having lost $419 million over three years.

More than one year later, Jackson showed an $8.2 million surplus for its fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, according to an audit released in March.

Yet as Jackson’s financials improve, many challenges remain, including finding new ways to attract paying patients, raising hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade aging facilities, and adjusting to an erosion of public funding as a result of federal healthcare reform.

Next year, Jackson and other Florida hospitals that treat many uninsured patients would lose millions of dollars in funding meant to offset those costs under a proposal unveiled this week by federal health officials who had anticipated that more Americans would have access to insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

But Florida legislators declined to expand Medicaid, and it is unclear how that will impact the volumes of uninsured patients at hospitals such as Jackson.

Jackson also faces the budget axe from Gov. Rick Scott, who is expected to veto $65 million in Medicaid funding that was supposed to help safety net hospitals in Florida transition to a new formula for receiving payment from Medicaid.

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