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Health News Florida

Another Watchdog for Elderly Gone

The revolving door is spinning at the Department of Elder Affairs' Long-Term-Care Ombudsman Program, with the departure of Deputy Director Don Hering on Monday just two weeks after Director Jim Crochet retired under pressure.

No explanation was offered for Hering's resignation. Crochet left after the department said he was under investigation -- no reason was given -- and placed him under administrative leave, ordering the staff not to communicate with him.

Crochet, who was considered close to the nursing-home and assisted-living industry, was appointed two years ago. He replaced Brian Lee, an outspoken advocate for patient rights.

As Margie Menzel of the News Service of Florida reports, the turmoil in the ombudsman program  couldn't come at a worse time.  On Aug. 1, the first contingent of nursing-home-eligible Medicaid patients --  9,300 from Central Florida -- were absorbed into private managed-care plans. Each month, another few thousand will be rolled into the project.

In 2011, the Legislature decided that all Medicaid patients except certain developmentally disabled persons will be enrolled in managed care and that the long-term-care population -- who have the most serious medical conditions and are by far the most expensive Medicaid recipients -- should go first.