News from Tallahassee for 5/30/15

'Transparency Tour' Takes Aim at Hospitals posted on 5/29/15

by News Service of Florida

Continuing to target the hospital industry, Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday announced what he dubbed the "Spotlight Transparency Tour" to discuss issues such as hospital profits and patient outcomes.

The Scott-appointed Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding will meet next Thursday at the Capitol and then visit three other cities in June and July as part of the tour. The tour stops are June 17 in Tampa, June 29 in Jacksonville and July 13 in Miami.

The governor's office said the tour will include comparing hospitals in each region and inviting the lowest- and highest-performing hospitals to present information about costs, profits and patient outcomes.

Scott appointed the commission amid a state budget standoff that includes a battle about a Senate proposal to use federal Medicaid money to offer health insurance to an estimated 800,000 Floridians.

Major players in the hospital industry support the proposal, which is opposed by Scott and the House. Scott asked hospitals to provide detailed financial and operational information to the commission, which has met twice this month.

But many hospitals did not submit the information, arguing that they have already provided such data to the state Agency for Health Care Administration.

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Medicaid Expansion Rally Targets Hialeah posted on 5/29/15

by AP

Medicaid expansion supporters are targeting Hialeah — the zip code that saw more health insurance sign-ups than any other in the country.

Several other zip codes with the highest enrollment were also in South Florida. Health advocates say those enrollment numbers show the need to expand Medicaid to more than 800,000 Floridians who fall into a coverage gap. They make too much money to qualify for regular Medicaid but too little to qualify for a subsidy in the federal exchange.

Floridians who fall into the coverage gap will speak at a rally today outside the office of state Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Hialeah.

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State's medical-marijuana law clears legal hurdle posted on 5/28/15

by Scott Powers and Gray Rohrer | Orlando Sentinel

medical marijuanaThe state's noneuphoric-medical-marijuana law cleared a major legal hurdle Wednesday when a judge in Tallahassee upheld it, which allows the state to begin licensing marijuana growers this summer.

Florida Administrative Hearings Judge David Watkins rejected claims by an Orange County nursery that the state's proposed rules and regulations were unfairly developed to give advantage to bigger, politically connected nurseries to win the five regional medical-marijuana-growing licenses the law allows.

As a result, the Florida Department of Health can file the rules as "final" and begin soliciting applications for the licenses within three weeks, provided Baywood Nurseries of Apopka does not appeal Watkins' decision.

Lawyers for Baywood did not immediately return calls for comment Wednesday.

Backers of the limited medical-marijuana law were ecstatic.

"It's about time we all moved forward on this," said Seth Hyman, a medical-marijuana advocate from Weston who wants the medicine for his daughter. "It's been too long, and the patients of Florida continue to suffer, which includes my little 9-year-old-daughter, Rebecca."

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Healthcare Commission Targets Medicaid Costs, Pushes For More Hospital Info posted on 5/28/15

by Lynn Hatter | WFSU

Governor Rick Scott’s hospital finance group and the state’s healthcare agency have released the names of hospitals that haven’t responded to the group’s requests for information. The move comes amid an increasingly bitter debate over the future of healthcare funding in Florida.

Only 18 Florida hospitals have given the Governor’s healthcare finance commission the data they were looking for. More than 130 others have not. And Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong says the state values hospitals, but continues to press them for more information about how and where they spend money.

“This is really a conversation that’s inclusive of our hospital leadership and I remain hopeful that our latest call to hospitals to complete our survey information will indeed be heeded so we can have complete information to further this discussion," he said.

Armstrong is serving on Governor Rick Scott’s healthcare and hospital funding commission. In a letter sent to the state and the commission, the Florida Hospital Association repeats its position that the state already has most of the information it’s requested. The FHA is also concerned the turnaround time is too quick to cover data requests that in some cases, span a decade. Recently, FHA's president said hospitals welcome the questions of the commission.

“There’s nothing wrong with that kind of transparency and we welcome it. It is not related to whether the sate moves forward with coverage and expanding its Medicaid coverage issues," said FHA President Bruce Rueben.

But Medicaid is part of the conversation. The government funded insurance program for the poor is at the center of a state budget impasse. The House and Governor Rick Scott are opposed to pulling down more federal dollars to add people to the program under the Affordable Care Act. The Senate wants to use those federal funds to get more uninsured people covered and the hospitals have sided with the Senate. During this week’s hospital finance meeting micro-surgeon Jason Rosenberg noted about a quarter of the state budget is spent on healthcare, and he doesn’t believe adding more money is the right answer.

“So we should deny our citizens the right to education by consuming more and more money with more expensive healthcare? And you would come in public comment and say 'no'," he said. "We hear you, we’re trying to get to the same result—so understand we’re working together on the same side, we’re just trying to do that efficiently.”

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Florida Senate offers FHIX fix, but Scott, House still opposed posted on 5/27/15

by john kennedy | Palm Beach Post

FL Gov Rick ScottTALLAHASSEE — The state Senate rolled out a revamped version of its plan to provide health coverage to 800,000 low-income Floridians, but met a renewed barrage of opposition Tuesday from Gov. Rick Scott and House leaders.

The Senate’s initial Florida Health Insurance Exchange (FHIX) was retooled into what Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, dubbed a 2.0 version in a late-hour bid to win support when the Legislature reconvenes in special session beginning June 1.

Work requirements for participants were strengthened and a provision to temporarily place them in Medicaid was eliminated, but critics found just as much to hate in the 2.0 version as in the original model of the privatized form of Medicaid expansion.

“A budget that keeps Florida’s economy growing will cut taxes and give Floridians back more of the money they earn, not inevitably raise taxes in order to implement Obamacare and grow government,” Scott said, in dismissing the Senate proposal.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, also showed no sign of budging. He chided Gardiner’s earlier claim that FHIX, a proposed state insurance marketplace, contained “conservative guardrails” like work requirements and co-payments that should make it easy for Republicans to support.

“When you remove the Senate’s ‘conservative guardrails’ that the Obama administration fundamentally opposes, all you are left with is a costly and inefficient entitlement program to serve able-bodied working age adults with no children,” Crisafulli said. “We would be far better off if Washington, D.C., would allow Florida to create our own plan.”

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