ALEX MILLER, Republican
BIRTHPLACE: Garden City (Long Island), NY
FAMILY: Divorced; two sons, ages 9 and 10
EDUCATION: University of Rhode Island, B.A. in psychology, and M.B.A., Johns Hopkins University, Carey School of Business
PROFESSIONAL CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: 18 years’ experience in medical supply chain management. CEO of Mercedes Medical, a family-owned, Inc. 500 award-winning national supplier of laboratory equipment and supplies to physician offices and hospitals across the US. Recipient of various awards including, “Forty under Forty,” “People to Watch,” “Best Bosses,” and consistently among the top 20 in “Top Florida Women-Led Businesses.” I also have extensive nonprofit community board experience.
FUN FACT: I’m a certified yoga instructor and have most recently become enthralled by the frustratingly beautiful game of golf.
What qualifies you more than your opponent to be a member of the Hospital Board?
Hospitals today need to find the balance between compassionate and quality health care and maintaining profitability. As a business owner of a health-care company I understand this important balance, and the key role the board plays in overseeing and guiding it, not micromanaging it. Someone who has worked in the health-care system for 30-plus years, like my opponent, would more often than not find it difficult to be impartial and not seek the best interest of his or her peers instead of seeking the best interest of the overall system’s ability to function profitably for the next 30-plus years.
Name three top challenges that you expect the Hospital Board to confront over the next two to three years, and how, specifically, should the board address them?
The most pressing issues facing SMHS revolve around state and federal regulations, and reductions in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement that will only intensify with Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Luckily for our community and as taxpayers, SMHS is extremely well managed and is more efficient and cost conscious than it has ever been. We will have to be diligent and strategic in continuing this path and come up with more unique and patient-centric ways to increase the revenue stream while maintaining patient safety and positive outcomes. Expanding outpatient facilities, partnerships and staying on top of technology will all be important topics for this new health-care era.
Sarasota Memorial wrote off $68 million in uncollectible debt in fiscal 2010-2011 and through nine months had written off another $50 million — which accounts for care to indigent and poor who are unable to pay. What is your position on the way the board and management has handled uncompensated care? What, if anything, would you advocate to be changed if elected?
Although the issue of uncollectible debt for those unable to pay can be frustrating to many taxpayers who believe they are the ones having to pay for their neighbors’ health care, this is the mission of SMHS, as the only public hospital system in Sarasota County. As I explain further below, the collected monies from the millage rate as a part of property taxes only constitutes 5% to 6% of the operational budget, or about 26 days. I would however not support additional millage rate increases.
Sarasota Memorial operates a health care center in Heritage Harbour in Manatee County. Given that Sarasota Memorial collects 1 mill in property taxes from Sarasota County property owners, what is your view on where Sarasota Memorial should operate facilities? Should it limit itself only to Sarasota County? Why or why not?
All the outpatient centers, not just Heritage Harbor, are operated by SMHS as standalone entities that are held accountable for their own operational budgets. While Manatee County may not like the competition, SMHS received legislative approval to operate there as long as no Sarasota tax dollars are used for its operations, and none is from my understanding and research. I support any outpatient facility that is self supporting and can lend to greater profitability and patient care for the overall system. If a profit center exists, it is my belief that it is in the system’s best interest to seize it.
Sarasota Memorial regularly receives high ratings for its quality of care and operations. No one is perfect; for what changes and improvements would you advocate as a member of the board?
The system should be commended for its outstanding performance. As you state, it has received high ratings from impartial quality and outcome audits and grading organizations. I would encourage them to continue to stay the course but have each department identify specific areas it feels could be strengthened. As we all know, there is always room for improvement.
Taxpayers contributed $48 million and $43 million in cash in 2010 and 2011 to the hospital board, respectively, via property taxes. Without those contributions, the hospital board still would have shown $14 million and $15 million annual surpluses. What will be your position on the board on whether to raise or lower the hospital’s tax rate?
The system only received $40 million in 2012, and the millage rate has not been changed in three years, which of course translates into less tax revenues because of declining property values. To remain a financially viable hospital the national statistics indicate that you should have at least a 3% return on operations. This would not be possible without the tax levy; 2012 will end up just more than a 4% return from what I understand. I would not support changing the millage rate.
Advocates of other hospitals in Sarasota County contend that the hospital’s property tax collections should be shared among all county hospitals for the reimbursement of indigent care. What is your opinion of that?
SMHS is the only county hospital that treats inpatient psychiatric care and is the only level 3 intensive care nursery in this four-county region. When the local for-profit hospital systems take on these challenges, as well as many others that SMHS takes on solely, then I might reconsider, but I do not support it at this time.
Why do you want to be elected?
I want to contribute to my community in a meaningful way, and with my health care and business background I feel this is the perfect fit for my experience and expertise.
PHOTO GALLERY: B.D. Gullett Elementary Walk-a-thon
B.D. Gullett Elementary students ran for more than just spending an hour outside of the classroom March 14. The walkers, joggers and runners raised dollars for their school’s technology and other resource needs. Their two-weeks worth of efforts commenced with the schools Walk-a-thon. Incentives for the students to raise as much money as possible, included an Amazon Kindle Fire, bounce house parties for classes, and the grand prize — watching school faculty members ride around on scooters, with dyed hair.
Commission to discuss St. Armands event moratorium
On Monday, the Sarasota City Commission will discuss the possible extension of a moratorium on special events in St. Armands Circle Park during the height of tourist season.
PHOTO GALLERY: Republican Club of Longboat Key Luncheon
On March 14, the Republican Club of Longboat Key hosted its monthly luncheon at the Harbourside Dining Room. The Honorable Larry Eger, Public Defender for the 12th Judicial Circuit, and Dr. Jim Whitman, Director of Psychiatric Services at the Manatee County Jail, spoke to attendees.
Road closures scheduled for Sarasota Half Marathon
On Sunday morning, runners will take over city streets for the Sarasota Half Marathon, causing temporary lane closures along the race’s route.
15 Cat Depot Gala 'Caturday Night Fever'
6:30 pm - 10:30 pm
15 Banyan Bash
15 The Jim Cullum Jazz Band
8:00 pm - 10:00 pm
16 Gloria Musicae Presents A Night at the Opera
6:00 am - 7:00 pm
16 Eight Over Eighty
17 Watercolor Pouring and Blending with Lian Quan Zhen
9:30 am - 4:00 pm
17 Sarasota's Shamrock Pub Annual St Patrick's Day Block Party March 17
17 Nia with Gail in Sarasota
4:45 pm - 5:45 pm