by Staff | Health News Florida
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, released a letter to Gov. Rick Scott saying the bill that suspends Florida from setting health insurance rates for two years is “unbelievable and unconscionable.”
He is urging Scott to veto the bill, saying that it puts Floridians at risk of high rate hikes, the Palm Beach Post reports.
But those who supported the bill say the goal is to help the state adjust to new regulatory requirements under the Affordable Care Act. Since the rules are undergoing a lot of changes, supporters say, the federal government is in the best position to review rates.
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by Doug Blackburn | Tallahassee Democrat
Officials at Florida State University are still trying to figure out why Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $5 million for critical maintenance at FSU when he signed off on the state budget Monday.
The Legislature had approved the money, with the House initially providing FSU with $10 million before the two chambers agreed on $5 million.
But Scott, saying the funding was not requested until the third year of the Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) project list for the State University System, vetoed the item.
Scott did approve $44 million for critical deferred maintenance for the whole university system — $50 million had been requested and approved by lawmakers — and FSU is scheduled to receive $6.7 million from that pool.
But the $5 million for critical maintenance, desperately needed according to FSU facilities director Mark Bertolami, was a separate line in the state budget.
FSU President Eric Barron believes there may have been a communication mix-up. He said FSU should have done a better job of convincing the governor that the money was needed and explaining how it got into the budget.
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by Mary Ellen Klas | Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
A fast-paced deal to give a startup insurance company with ties to former CFO Tom Gallagher a $52 million take-out deal has drawn some political heat, as expected, for Gov. Rick Scott.
Former state Sen. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat, sent a letter to the governor -- and copied the press -- blasting the arrangement and suggestiong the governor's political committee return the $110,000 from the company, Heritage Property and Casualty. Download LettertoScott
"In truth, the whole thing smells,'' Gelber wrote. "Floridians will rightfully wonder if Heritage gave you the money because they support you or because they were, literally, trying ot get a $52 million gift from an agency over which you have great sway.
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by Eileen Oldfield | Pharmacy Times
A bill amending Florida’s existing prescription drug substitution law has the potential to create a pathway for biosimilar product substitution at the pharmacy. The bill passed both houses of the state’s legislature in late April with nearly unanimous support and now must be signed by Governor Rick Scott in order to take effect.
The bill would allow pharmacists to dispense biosimilars in place of branded biologics only if the FDA has determined that the product in question is biosimilar to and interchangeable with the prescribed product and if the prescriber does not express a verbal or written preference for the brand-name product. The pharmacist would also be required to inform the patient of the substitution and to retain a written or electronic record of the substitution. In addition, Florida’s pharmacy board would be directed to maintain a list of FDA-approved interchangeable biologic products on its public website.
Provided Governor Scott signs the bill, it is scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2013. However, the FDA has not yet approved any biosimilar products.
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by JIM SAUNDERS | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
As Gov. Rick Scott considered budget vetoes last week, some of the state’s best-known hospitals feared he would slice $65 million that lawmakers had set aside to help the industry move to a new Medicaid payment system, reports Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.
So hospital chief executives from across the state sent nearly identical letters to Scott that offered an assurance: If he approved the $65 million for the upcoming 2013-14 fiscal year, they wouldn’t come back next year and ask for similar money.
“Since these funds are intended to mitigate the costs of transition (to the new Medicaid payment system), I will request elimination of the recurring appropriation in the 2014-15 state fiscal year, if you approve the funding for the upcoming state fiscal year,” said a line that appeared repeatedly in the letters.
The assurances apparently worked. Scott decided against vetoing the money — and even took note of the hospitals’ pledges in a letter Monday that explained a laundry list of budget decisions...
At least 16 hospital and health-system executives sent letters to Scott giving the assurances, according to copies released by the governor’s office.
The hospitals and health systems included prominent industry players such as Jackson Health System in Miami-Dade County; Broward Health and Memorial Healthcare System in Broward County; St. Mary’s Medical Center in Palm Beach County; Orlando Health; Tampa General Hospital; and the Gainesville-based Shands HealthCare. Also, some letters came from executives of smaller hospitals, such as Weems Memorial in Franklin County.
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by The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — When President Barack Obama pushed his health care overhaul plan through Congress, he counted labor unions among his strongest supporters.
But some unions leaders have grown frustrated and angry about what they say are unexpected consequences of the new law — problems that they say could jeopardize the health benefits offered to millions of their members.
The issue could create a political headache next year for Democrats facing re-election if disgruntled union members believe the Obama administration and Congress aren't working to fix the problem.
"It makes an untruth out of what the president said, that if you like your insurance, you could keep it," said Joe Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. "That is not going to be true for millions of workers now."
The problem lies in the unique multiemployer health plans that cover unionized workers in retail, construction, transportation and other industries with seasonal or temporary employment. Known as Taft-Hartley plans, they are jointly administered by unions and smaller employers that pool resources to offer more than 20 million workers and family members continuous coverage, even during times of unemployment.
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by Martin E. Comas | Orlando Sentinel
A paved bike trail stretching from coast to coast across the center of Florida can still get built despite Gov. Rick Scott's veto of $50 million for the project, state Sen. Andy Gardiner said Thursday.
"We're committed to getting this done," said Gardiner, the Orlando Republican and avid cyclist who pushed for the Coast to Coast Connector Trail. "I'm all in on this, so we'll keep working on it."
The budget state legislators passed in April included $50 million to create the 275-mile trail by filling in about 72 miles of gaps between existing trails, from Cape Canaveral National Seashore to St. Petersburg.
The money, which was vetoed by Scott this week, would have come from a transportation trust fund for projects that promote tourism and economic development. Scott said the gaps between trails could instead be filled "incrementally" using other DOT funds, including more than $57 million earmarked for building trails throughout the state.
Gardiner said Scott may have been put off by the $50 million price tag, even though the money would have been spread out over five years.
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by Peter Schorsch | Saint Petersblog
The social network’s advertising arm unveiled this week what it calls “lead generation” cards, and while the feature has obvious uses for businesses looking to sync up with potential customers, the move could have big political ramifications too.
Case in point: The National Republican Campaign Committee already has access to the new feature and used it this week to create a petition and grab names of users that back getting the IRS “out of our health care.”...
More, from The Next Web here with a h/t to POLITICO Morning Tech.
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by ALFONSO CHARDY AND ANDRES VIGLUCCI | Miami Herald
State transportation officials trying to fix a critical engineering snag at the new train station under construction at Miami International Airport’s $2 billion transportation hub have backed off the cheapest fix: closing off Northwest 25th Street. But they must now choose from a menu of alternatives that are all substantially more complex, costly and time-consuming.
The bottom line, engineers for the Florida Department of Transportation told members of the Metropolitan Planning Organization on Thursday: correcting the mistake could now cost up to tens of millions of dollars. A source familiar with the project said that could also delay opening of the $88 million Miami Central Station by as much as a year, or to early 2015.
In January, FDOT said it realized only after construction had begun that the platform that will serve Amtrak was about 200 feet too short, meaning some trains would jut north into the busy street. FDOT, which has blamed erroneous information from Amtrak, at first considered simply permanently closing the street and re-routing traffic.
But FDOT higher-ups discarded that option after Miami-Dade Commission Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa objected and business and property owners on 25th Street, which is just one of two direct connections for motorists between Northwest South River Drive and LeJeune Road, complained. Sosa also chairs the MPO, the county’s semi-autonomous transportation-planning agency.
“I want to assure you that the Florida Department of Transportation is not going to be closing 25th Street,” FDOT representative Harold Desdunes told the MPO board.
Instead, FDOT officials said, the agency will now analyze 13 versions of several potential fixes, including tunneling under the train tracks, building an overpass over them, or lengthening the train platform to the south instead of into 25th Street.
The bills for the alternatives would range from $6 million for the southward extension to $20 million to $25 million for the overpass, and $35 million to $55 million for the tunnel, said FDOT program manager Carl Filer.
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