Bush wants to privatize some veterans’ health benefits, but in Florida it didn’t go so well

Source: Chris Frates, CNN, May 1, 2015

Jeb Bush’s effort as governor to partially privatize veterans health care services in Florida went so poorly it was ended shortly after Bush left office. That hasn’t stopped the former Republican governor, now in the early stages of running for president, from arguing veterans should be given the choice to see a public or private doctor, with either visit being paid for by the government. …. But Bush’s experience outsourcing veterans’ nursing homes in Florida was a case study in privatization’s pitfalls. By the time it was over, Florida officials determined the state could provide higher-quality care at a better price for taxpayers. …. In 2001, the state opened a veterans’ nursing home in Pembroke Pines, Florida, that contracted out its nursing and food services to a private company. The contract went to PhyAmerica. The company’s chief executive, a major donor to Florida Republicans who gave to Bush’s campaign, lost control of the company in 2003 after it went into bankruptcy, according to news reports.
Two similarly operated facilities were open in Florida by 2004. By then, the Pembroke Pines facility was already having problems. It was placed on the state’s list of facilities providing substandard care and ranked in the bottom 20 percent of facilities in its county, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported then. In one incident, the nursing home was cited after inspectors pulled the records of 10 patients and found nine were not being properly cared for, leaving them at risk for falls and accidents, according to the paper. One patient fell repeatedly before nurses found him on the floor with a half-inch deep gash over his eye. An Alzheimer’s patient escaped from a window before being spotted by staff, the paper reported……
Veterans’ Nursing Home Under Scrutiny
Source: Diane C. Lade, Sun-Sentinel, September 27, 2002

Flags flew brightly and old soldiers proudly snapped to attention on a breezy January morning as Gov. Jeb Bush dedicated the new Sandy Nininger State Veterans Nursing Home in Pembroke Pines — the long-awaited dream of local veterans who lobbied for years to bring long-term care closer to home. Twenty-one months later, Nininger is on the state’s latest Nursing Home Watch List of facilities providing substandard care. The state’s Agency for Health Care Administration online reports show that from March through July, Nininger had 29 deficiencies involving residents’ rights, privacy, care and management, as well as three safety code violations. The most serious came during a March 26 inspection, when Nininger was cited for failing to properly monitor nine out of 10 residents whose records state inspectors examined, putting them at risk of falls and accidents….

Florida takes over care at 3 nursing homes
Source: BY SCOTT ANDRON, Miami Herald (FL), Wed, Aug. 13, 2008

The state is taking over direct management of nurse’s aides and food workers at three veterans’ nursing homes, including one in Pembroke Pines. The 208 employees now work for a contractor, North Carolina-based PhyAmerica Government Services. But as of Aug. 29, PhyAmerica is laying them off, according to a notice filed Tuesday with the state labor department. ….. The PhyAmerica employees can apply for the new state jobs, said Courtney Heidelberg, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. …… ”It’s more cost effective, it’s better quality of care for our residents, and our employees get better benefits,” she said.