News from Tallahassee for 11/1/14

State Attempt to Reopen Medicaid Case Draws Fire posted on 10/30/14

by News Service of Florida

With a federal judge possibly close to ruling in the case, plaintiffs' attorneys are objecting to a state attempt to offer new evidence in a lawsuit about whether Florida has adequately provided care to children in the Medicaid program.

The lawsuit, which has been spearheaded by the Florida Pediatric Society, was filed in 2005. A trial ended in 2012, and federal judge Adalberto Jordan is expected to issue a ruling soon, according to court documents.

In a strongly worded document filed Tuesday, the plaintiffs' attorneys said the state's attempt to introduce new evidence would be "highly prejudicial" and would cause additional delays.

"Essentially, defendants (state agencies) are asking for an entirely new trial in the guise of a motion to reopen the record,'' the document said. "The prejudice to plaintiffs, a class of nearly two million Florida children who depend on Medicaid, could not be greater."

The state Agency for Health Care Administration, the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Families filed motions last week that, in part, asked for the case to be reopened to provide new evidence.

As an example, AHCA and the DOH pointed to a recently completed shift to a statewide managed-care system in Medicaid. They contend that the shift addressed issues in the case, such as having adequate networks of physicians to care for children.

» Read more

Hospitals Take Leap on Prevention posted on 10/30/14

by Carol Gentry | Health News Florida

Nearly half of Florida hospitals have earned an "A" on error prevention in a new report card from a business-backed group concerned about patient safety.

The ratings from The Leapfrog Group, released today, show Florida fifth among the states on its safety scores (see all state scores). No Florida hospitals flunked, and just three scored a D (see Florida scores).

The most-improved hospital on the Leapfrog list is Brandon Regional Medical Center, which jumped from a D to an A grade in just six months. The suburban Tampa facility is part of the HCA Healthcare chain, as are three of the four hospitals that jumped from Cs to As over the same time.

The HCA hospitals that jumped two letter grades to an A were all in Tampa Bay: South Bay Hospital in Sun City Center, Northside Hospital in St. Petersburg, and Doctors Hospital of Sarasota.

The good news was not entirely a surprise, said Dr. Larry Feinman, chief medical officer for HCA's 16-hospital Western Florida Division.

"Our company and our division and our facilities have been embarking on significant work with clinical excellence initiatives that really have improved the quality at all our hospitals," he said in an interview. "You're seeing the result of that."

» Read more

New poll shows approval for medical marijuana initiative posted on 10/29/14

by Stephen Nohlgren | Tampa Bay Times

A new poll commissioned by the sponsor of Florida's Amendment 2, which would legalize marijuana for medical use, shows 62 percent of likely voters will approve it, 35 percent are opposed and 3 percent are undecided, according to a United for Care release.

The poll was conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove based on actual ballot language, not a summary sentence that many polls use. It was a survey of cell phone and landline users, taken Oct. 22 through 27, the release said. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.4 percent.

Under Florida law, Amendment 2 must win at least 60 percent approval to pass. Some polls have shown the measure clearing that hurdle, but others have indicated it will fall short. So the latest figures were hailed by supporters.

"This poll demonstrates a continued upward swing — attributable to recent endorsements by major papers across the state as well as a substantial increase in our outreach to voters," said United for Care campaign manager Ben Pollara.

Florida governor defends order on Ebola monitoring posted on 10/27/14

by AP

WELLINGTON, Fla. — Gov. Rick Scott defended his decision to monitor anyone coming from Ebola-affected countries, saying Monday it's "the right thing to do" to protect Floridians.

Appearing beside New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at a campaign event in Wellington, Scott said his executive order would ensure that the state wards off an outbreak and goes beyond actions by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"I want to make sure that ... we don't do what CDC did — they got behind," he said. "We're not going to get behind. We're going to be prepared."

Scott's weekend order gives state health officials authority to do twice-daily monitoring of individuals arriving from places the CDC designates as affected by Ebola.

"We've got 19.6 million people living in this state. I want them to be safe," Scott said. "I want the 100 million tourists that we get here to be safe. I want all of our health care workers, our first responders to be safe. If you go to a Ebola-infected area when you come back you ought to be monitored by the Department of Health. It's the right thing to do."

Cities Pass Moratoriums Before Vote on 2 posted on 10/27/14

by staff | Health NEws Florida

Ahead of a vote on a statewide amendment that would legalize medical marijuana, Boca Raton is poised to approve a city law that would ban the sale or cultivation of marijuana, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports.

Other municipalities, including Boynton Beach, North Palm Beach, Lake Clarke Shores and the village of Golf, also are working on year-long bans on marijuana treatment centers.

Meanwhile, the cities of Titusville and Coconut Creek each have approved a six-month moratorium, and the Central Florida city of Eustis is also pushing for at least a temporary ban to keep medical marijuana out, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

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