Florida Current

State Rep. Mike Fasano of Pasco County went through the math of the House's health plan and showed how any family poor enough to qualify for it would be unable to afford it.

But then the House Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed it anyway, with Republicans all voting yes and Democrats no.

The Florida Senate unanimously passed a $74.3-billion budget that includes raises for state employees and more money for schools and the Everglades; it also leaves the door open to accept federal funds that would expand coverage to the uninsured, the Times/Herald Bureau reports.

Republicans who control the Florida House hint they're about to unveil their version of a health plan for the state's low-income uninsured between now and Monday. It appears that they still intend to turn down more than $50 billion in federal funds that would pay the tab.

Meanwhile, calls grew louder for House leaders to accept the money. Gov. Rick Scott said, "We're already paying the taxes" and the money will simply go to another state if Florida turns it down.  State Rep. Mike Fasano went farther, saying he hopes his fellow House Republicans "come to their senses."

The Department of Children and Families Deputy Secretary Suzanne Vitale ignored the recommendation of a negotiating team and chose the more expensive company to upgrade and run the Medicaid eligibility system, the Florida Current reports.  

Eleven insurance companies responded to the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration's request for bids to participate in a statewide Medicaid managed care program.  

The federal government has yet to approve Florida’s request for a waiver for the program. As Health News Florida reported, state lawmakers believe it will be approved, based on a letter from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services.

Florida Senate

What kind of health coverage can you buy for $20 to $30 a month?

"You can't," says John Sinibaldi, an independent broker in Seminole.  

That may sum up the real-world prospects for Florida Health Choices Plus, the plan for extremely low-income uninsured Florida adults that State Sen. Aaron Bean's Health Policy Committee approved Tuesday along party lines.

Bean said he offered it in the knowledge that it wasn't much, but was at least something that the Florida House leadership might accept. 

Tampa Bay Times

Health-fraud investigators spent most of Thursday night copying data from the computers at Universal Health Care after federal agents raided the company early Thursday and ordered hundreds of workers out of their offices in the downtown St. Petersburg building.

Meanwhile, Dr. Akshay "A.K." Desai, who founded and ran the Medicare and Medicaid  HMO company, was nowhere in evidence. The gates were closed at his ultra-modern mansion on Tampa Bay.

Downtown Photo

Broward Health has agreed to pay Ryan Tannehill, quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, $100,000 or more a year to let the hospital system use his name and photo, the Broward Bulldog reports. The hospital system said it’s a good marketing deal, but some question the use of taxpayer dollars. 


Attorney Gen. Pam Bondi’s office announced two Medicaid fraud arrests this week. The larger one involved an Orlando-area woman who billed taxpayers $3 million for mental-health case work that was never done. As WMFE News reports, Bondi said the woman spent the money living high on the hog, on cruises, fancy cars, and $175,000 worth of Louis Vuitton bags. 

At his site Our Health Policy Matters, consultant Paul Gionfriddo decries the proposals by some states, including Florida, to offer premium assistance to buy private insurance instead of expanding Medicaid. He worries that such alternatives won’t help as many people as Medicaid expansion, but admits they’re better than doing nothing.  

A small-business lobbying group has launched a TV and online ad campaign to persuade Floridians to reject an estimated $51 billion in federal funds over the next decade -- money that would provide health coverage to about 1 million of the state's uninsured.

While Florida’s legislative leaders are scornful of Medicaid, some insurers like the profits from their state managed-care contracts, the Tampa Bay Times reports. They’re gearing up to expand next year when the state program goes fully into managed care. And Florida Blue -- the old Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida -- is jumping into the game.  

Patients who have insurance through Universal Health Care won’t have it after April 1, the Tampa Bay Times reports. As part of the state’s takeover of the troubled St. Petersburg-based insurer, thousands of Medicare and Medicaid members will have to switch to a different plan.   

Tampa Tribune

State Sen. Joe Negron's "Healthy Florida" plan, officially launched without dissent Thursday by the Senate Appropriations Committee, has already attracted support from a broad swath of industries and leaders of both political parties. 

As the Affordable Care Act nears its third birthday this Saturday, a poll finds the public actually knows less about the law now than when it passed in 2010. Oh, and a lot of what people think they know just isn't so.

Those are the central findings of this month's tracking poll just released by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Sunshine State News

In the debate over Medicaid expansion, the voices of real people are often lost. As Sunshine State News reports, Medicaid can transform lives, as the program did for one Tampa family who can’t otherwise afford the medical care needed for a 9-year-old boy with a traumatic brain injury. 

A whistle-blower’s secretly recorded tapes were played for jurors Monday in the Medicaid fraud cases against former WellCare executives, the Tampa Bay Times reports.  Prosecutors said the tapes show that the company tried to hide profits.

Tampa Bay Times

Patty Wallace gets $2,000 a month from her 81-year-old mother, who suffers from dementia, to provide round-the-clock care.

Florida employers could get hit with up to $219 million in federal penalties if the state doesn’t expand Medicaid or do the functional equivalent, Bloomberg News reports. That’s because they’ll  have to pay a penalty under the Affordable Care Act if their low-wage employees are forced to seek subsidized care through the federal health exchange because they can’t get Medicaid.  

Ocala Star-Banner

Alicia Ford, who suffered brain damage at birth 28 years ago, learned how to get around with a walker when she was getting physical therapy. But she lost Medicaid eligibility at 18. Now her muscles have shriveled and she can’t get out of her wheelchair, the Ocala Star-Banner reports. 

Medicaid expansion for 1 million low-income adults in Florida may technically be dead, after committees in both the House and Senate voted to kill it. And yet, chances for an alternative plan that would accomplish the same goals are looking up.

On Wednesday, federal health officials  signaled interest in seeing Florida’s alternative plan, which is still just a  gleam in the eye of a powerful state senator, as soon as the state has something in writing.

It wasn't much of a surprise to newspapers around the state that both the House and Senate committees on the Affordable Care Act said no to Medicaid expansion.

But as the Tampa Tribune's editorial board said, it's not enough to just say no, not with 4 million uninsured -- the poorest 1 million of whom would have been helped by the expansion.

Weatherford's Political ‘Instincts’ Failed Him on Medicaid Remarks

Mar 13, 2013

At his site Our Health Policy Matters, consultant Paul Gionfriddo writes that Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford has a duty to embrace Medicaid expansion, especially since he openly shared how the program helped his younger brother.

Palm Beach Post

A measure working its way through the Florida Legislature would make it more difficult to sue corporate executives, directors and other “decision-makers” when something goes wrong at their nursing homes, the Palm Beach Post reports. 

Thousands of non-English-speaking Floridians face a difficult barrier when they go to the state’s web page to sign up for Medicaid and and other programs, the Associated Press reports. Health advocates worry they’ll lose out on new opportunities under the federal health law. 

Lawmakers are in Tallahassee today to start the 2013 Legislative session, which will take up a slew of health issues, the Miami Herald reports.

In addition to Medicaid expansion, lawmakers will also consider:

Palm Beach Post

After the Palm Beach Post reported last spring that juveniles in youth prisons were getting large doses of antipsychotics, and doctors were getting large kickbacks from the makers of those drugs, the state promised action. 

The day that WellCare Health Plans dreaded for years arrived on Tuesday: The criminal trial of four company ex-executives began in earnest in Tampa's federal court, with lots of accusations about health fraud and conspiracy.

As the Tampa Tribune reported, interest in the case is so high that the courtroom was packed, with spillover space on another floor.

The Department of Children and Families says the Legislature needs to close loopholes in the law that allow financially stable nursing home patients to hide their assets and get Medicaid to foot the bill for their care, the Associated Press reports.  The state found more than 500 cases totaling $29 million in a six-year review.

Tampa Bay Times

A woman who deliberately works fewer hours so her children can get coverage...a 61-year-old adjunct professor ...A family doctor who had to call in a personal favor to get a biopsy for a patient...

The Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald show what an expansion of the program would mean for these people.