News By Industry
News from Tallahassee for 3/12/14
Coral Gables billionaire Mike Fernandez strongly backing Gov. Rick Scott posted on 3/11/14
by Steve Bousquet | Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
As Gov. Rick Scott gave his State of the State speech to open the legislative session last week, his cheering section looked on from the upstairs visitors box in the House chamber.
Scott’s wife, Ann, was there with their two daughters, sons-in-law and their young grandsons. Lenny Curry, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, was there. So was Brian Ballard, a lobbyist who raises lots of money for GOP candidates.
Also nearby was Mike Fernandez, a wealthy Cuban-American healthcare executive from Coral Gables and co-finance chairman of Scott’s 2014 re-election campaign.
Fernandez has written three personal checks totaling $1.25 million to Scott’s Let’s Get to Work reelection fund, including $1 million in a single check in November. Firms in which he has an interest have given another $150,000 to Let’s Get to Work and $40,000 more to the state Republican Party, plus $15,000 to Scott’s reelection fund.
“He believes in what I’m doing,” Scott said. “He believes in good government.”
Fernandez owns MBF Healthcare Management, MBF Family Investments and other firms. The companies have won lucrative long-term contracts under the state’s Medicaid managed care program.
Scott rejects the idea that it doesn’t pass the smell test for his leading fundraiser to have such a big stake in contracts doled out by agencies under Scott’s control.
“Whatever business Mike does with the state of Florida, he does on his own,” Scott said. “If you listen to his story, he was escorted out of Cuba on a government plane. He believes in the dream of America, which is what I believe in.”
The sheer magnitude of Fernandez’s investment in Scott’s future ensures that this story will be around for a long time.
Bills: Trauma Centers, Med Tourism posted on 3/10/14
by staff | Health News Florida
The Health Innovation Subcommittee on Tuesday will consider a plan (PCB HIS 14-01) that saves trauma centers that have been open at least a year and have applied for a site visit from the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma, reports the Ledger. While the does not name specific centers, those in Manatee, Pasco and Marion Counties are expected to be directly affected, the Ledger reports.
Senate, House Differ on Telemedicine posted on 3/6/14
by JIM SAUNDERS | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
A Senate committee Wednesday approved a proposal aimed at boosting the use of the telemedicine in Florid, a plan that differs significantly from the House’s plan.
The Senate Health Policy Committee voted 7-2 for a measure (SPB 7028) that would establish guidelines and requirements for health providers who want to treat patients remotely through the use of Internet and telecommunications technology.
A House select committee on Monday passed its version (HB 751), but the two chambers appear to disagree about the amount of regulation that should be applied to telemedicine. The House version includes relatively light regulation. But the Senate bill, for example, would limit the definition of telemedicine providers to physicians.
The Florida Nurses Association and other groups objected to such a limitation Wednesday. Stan Whittaker, chairman of the Florida Association of Nurse Practitioners, said nurse practitioners would be "severely limited, if not left out, by the bill."
When asked about the issue, Senate Health Policy Chairman Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, pointed to the fact that physicians have been to medical school. The only dissenters on the Senate committee were Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring.
Bean and others cautioned that the Senate bill likely will face changes as the legislative session moves forward. "It's a start," Bean said. "We've got a long way to go."
Halifax Health settles fraud case posted on 3/4/14
by Marni Jameson | Orlando Sentinel
Halifax Hospital agreed on Monday to pay a record-setting settlement in a whistle-blower lawsuit that alleged more than a decade of illegal kickbacks to physicians and Medicare fraud.
Halifax and the U.S. Department of Justice reached the tentative agreement just as the jury trial was set to begin in Orlando federal court.
Though neither side would disclose the settlement amount until the deal was finalized, a source close to the case said the amount was $85 million.
And that's just for the first half of the case. Part two is set to go to trial in July.
Though far less than the nearly $500 million the government was seeking, the $85 million payment is the largest amount ever paid for a violation of this kind in U.S. history, said Patrick Burns, co-executive director for Taxpayers Against Fraud, a national nonprofit in Washington that works to promote whistle-blower laws.
The "agreement in principle" requires that Halifax pay the settlement amount over a period of five years, plus attorneys' fees.
In addition, Halifax must agree to a corporate integrity and compliance program "to make sure that something like this doesn't happen in the future," said the court transcript.
Ten Issues to Watch During the 2014 Session posted on 3/3/14
by staff | news service of florida
Florida lawmakers will start the 2014 session Tuesday with a budget surplus and an eye on the November elections. But they still will have to address some tough questions before the session ends May 2. Among the questions: How can Florida better protect vulnerable children? Is it time to overhaul the state pension system? And should the state allow resort casinos to set up shop? Here are 10 issues to watch during the next two months:
BRIGHTER BUDGET: Tallahassee is always a happier place when the state has a budget surplus. And lawmakers will go into the session with a roughly $1 billion cushion. Gov. Rick Scott proposed a $74.2 billion budget plan that includes tax cuts and increased spending on education and child welfare. Lawmakers don’t have to follow Scott's recommendations, but cutting taxes and spending money on kids could be popular ideas in an election year....
HEALTH CARE FIGHTS: The 2013 legislative session was filled with debate about whether Florida should expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. While Democrats will try to resurrect the issue this year, a Medicaid expansion is all but dead. But the health-care world could see a couple of major lobbying fights, including a hospital-industry battle about state approvals of new trauma centers. Also, a debate has been raging about a House proposal to allow nurse practitioners to provide care without the supervision of physicians.
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