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News from Tallahassee for 12/10/13
State reps to tackle hospital problems posted on 12/5/13
by MATTHEW BEATON | The News Herald
PANAMA CITY— The local state legislative delegation is expected to take up Thursday the county’s controversial quest to create an irrevocable trust for a hospital pension and a separate measure to allow the county to remove its member on the board managing the pension.
The pension is overseen by the Bay Health Foundation, and the Bay County Commission has tried unsuccessfully to remove its appointee from that board. The commission wants the ability to remove its pick with or without cause.
The two issues are being submitted as local bills to Bay County’s three-member delegation — state Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, state Reps. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, and Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City — which meets at 5:30 p.m. today in the Bay County Government Center.
The delegation will hear four local bills total. The two others would create entertainment districts in downtown Panama City where drinks could be taken out of bars during special events and would change how members are chosen for the Bay County Tourist Development Council (TDC).
The Bay County legislative delegation meets annually to vote on local bills submitted by government entities. The bills are limited in scope — generally covering a city or county — but require the state Legislature’s action. No local bills were submitted from the county last year.
The County Commission and foundation have been going back and forth on the pension for about a year. The commission hopes legislative action will be the solution.
Lawmakers Face Decision About Doctor Pay posted on 11/15/13
by JIM SAUNDERS | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
Florida physicians made the argument for years: The state's Medicaid payment rates have been so low that many doctors stayed away from the program.
But the federal Affordable Care Act provided a temporary solution. In 2013 and 2014, the law calls on the federal government to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to boost the pay of primary-care physicians who provide much of the treatment for low-income Floridians enrolled in Medicaid.
Now, however, Florida lawmakers and doctors face a dilemma. The federal government will stop covering the full cost of the physician pay increases at the end of next year. And that means Florida taxpayers would have to pick up part of the extra cost if the pay hikes are going to continue, starting in January 2015.
The Florida Medical Association, an influential physicians group, has started lobbying lawmakers to include money in the upcoming 2014-15 fiscal-year budget to prevent doctors from falling back to lower payment rates. But it wouldn't come cheap: The FMA estimates the state's cost at roughly $135 million -- and a state report last year put the potential cost even higher.
Lawmakers Look for Cures to Health System Needs posted on 11/7/13
by JIM SAUNDERS | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
Baby boomers are getting older. So are primary-care doctors and nurses. And Florida's population continues to grow.
That combination could create a prescription for problems in Florida's health-care system during the next two decades.
A House committee Wednesday began studying the complex set of issues, as it looks for ways to make sure the state has enough doctors and other health-care workers to meet its needs. It's too early to know what the committee will recommend, but ideas range from taking steps to train -- and keep -- more doctors in Florida to using new technology such as telemedicine.
State economist Amy Baker presented information to the committee that pointed toward problems as the state moves toward 2030, the year when the first batch of baby boomers will hit their mid-80s. By that time, Florida's population is projected to grow to 23.6 million from the 2012 total of roughly 19 million, and nearly a quarter of the residents are expected to be ages 65 or older.
Baker said baby boomers will be relatively healthy and have financial assets when they first retire, but they will need more health-care services and their bank accounts will shrink as 2030 gets closer. The baby boom generally includes people born from 1946 to 1964.
DOH Officials Flub Basic Question posted on 11/7/13
by Carol Gentry | Health News Florida
Each year, the Florida Department of Health is required to publish an update on the physician workforce, to help the Legislature in strategic planning. That report, which came out this month, said there are 43,406 in active practice.
And yet, two officials who appeared before a House panel examining the health care workforce on Wednesday were stumped when members asked how many physicians the state has. After members asked the questions half a dozen times, the DOH officials said they'd have to get back to the committee, which next meets in January.
As the Florida Current reports, the matter created a testy exchange at the hearing before the House Select Committee on Health Care Workforce Innovation. The cross-examination went on for about 20 minutes.
The two DOH officials who couldn't come up with an answer -- even though it pops right up if you search "doctors" on the agency's website -- were Dr. Alma Littles of the DOH Physician Advisory Council and Debbie Reich of the Bureau of Community Health Assessment.
The physician workforce report, based on an annual survey, found that more than 62,300 physicians live in the state, but only about 70 percent of them are in active practice. Nearly two-thirds are age 50 or older, a concern as the population ages and health-care needs grow. That is why House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, appointed the select committee...
One-year-old data on a Kaiser Family Foundation website are somewhat different. They show 46,830 Florida physicians as of November 2012, almost half of whom were described as engaged in primary care. The KFF data are from a private company, Redi-Data Inc.
The governor and the felon: the profitable, private partnership of Rick Scott and Ken Jenne posted on 11/6/13
by Dan Christensen | Broward Bulldog
Kimberly Kisslan’s sudden resignation from Broward Health’s governing board two weeks ago followed news of her immunized testimony in the 2007 corruption case that brought down Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne.
Since then, Gov. Rick Scott, who appointed Kisslan in July, has refused to answer questions about the matter or explain why a state background check failed to uncover Kisslan’s involvement in Jenne’s criminal scheme. Kisslan was BSO legal counsel under Sheriff Jenne.
Scott, however, has a little-known reason for not wanting to talk about Jenne. The governor and the convicted felon are old friends and business associates.
“I’ve just known (Scott) for years and years and years,” Jenne told this reporter in 2005...
Kisslan got into trouble with federal prosecutors due to personal legal work she did for Jenne while he was sheriff. Specifically, she and a BSO vendor coordinated the demolition of an old house with code compliance issues that Jenne owned in Lake Worth.
At the same time, Kisslan was negotiating a BSO lease extension with the vendor – quickly signed by Jenne – that called for the police agency to lease additional office space from him at a cost of $348,000.
The vendor, developer Philip Procacci, later paid the $8,130 demolition cost for Jenne and the matter became part of the corruption charges to which the sheriff pleaded guilty in September 2007.
Kisslan’s role in Jenne’s scheme is spelled out in public court documents filed at the time of his plea. Yet despite a background check, Gov. Scott was unaware of that damaging information when he installed Kisslan on Broward Health’s board, said spokesman John Tupps.
The governor’s office declined to discuss the vetting process for gubernatorial appointees.
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