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Panel To Dig Into Health Issues For DeSantis

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Ron DeSantis (YouTube)
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Lt. Gov.-elect Jeanette Nuñez and former Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Alan Levine are co-chairing a committee that could help shape health-care plans for incoming Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The 50-member Transition Advisory Committee on Health and Wellness will hold its first meeting at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

“I’m grateful they asked me to do this,” Levine told The News Service of Florida on Monday, adding, “I was thrilled when I was told (I’d be working with Nunez). Who could be a better co-chair?”

This is the third time Levine, who is president and CEO of Ballad Health, has served on such a health-care advisory committee for an incoming administration. The previous panels were for former Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Rick Scott, both Republicans.

Levine, who served as secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration under Bush, said in the past the transition teams have usually wrapped up their work just before new governors were sworn in. DeSantis, a Republican former congressman, will take office Jan. 8.

Transition panels look at existing policy and administration and compare that to the new policies and priorities of the incoming administration, Levine said. Decisions about appointment of agency heads he said, usually are not made at the policy committee level.

While Levine said it’s unusual for the lieutenant governor-elect to be appointed to a transition committee, he said Nunez’s extensive knowledge in health care made her a smart selection to the group.

Nunez, a Miami Republican who served the past eight years in the state House, has deep ties to the health-care industry. Prior to being elected to the House, Nunez was a chief lobbyist for Jackson Memorial Hospital, one of South Florida’s most important health-care providers, and one of the state’s largest Medicaid providers. She also worked for HCA-owned Kendall Regional Medical Center before launching a health-care consulting firm in 2013 called OnPoint Strategies. A financial-disclosure form filed with the state shows that Nunez drew a $148,000 salary last year from OnPoint Strategies.

Nunez told The News Service of Florida last week that her role in the DeSantis administration was still evolving but that she was taking an active role in the transition and that she had a keen interest in the health-care agencies, from the Agency for Health Care Administration to the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Families.

In addition to Nunez and Levine, the committee is comprised of a variety of health-care and health-insurance experts, including Tim Stapleton, CEO of the Florida Medical Association; Edward Jimenez, CEO of University of Florida Health Shands; and Audrey Brown, president and CEO of the Florida Association of Health Plans.

The list also includes former state Sen. Rene Garcia and former state Rep. Jason Brodeur, both of whom chaired health-care spending panels while in the Legislature.

Also included on the committee is David Shapiro, a board member of the Florida Society of Ambulatory Surgery Centers and a member of the state Consumer Health Information and Policy Advisory Council.

At a meeting of the policy advisory council last week, Shapiro led efforts that opposed a priority piece of legislation for House Speaker Jose Oliva, a bill that would require the state to develop and publish the results of patient safety surveys.

Oliva --- and the incoming DeSantis administration --- have made health-care transparency a top priority.  But in opposing the proposal, Shapiro, a medical doctor and a certified health-care risk manager, said the patient safety surveys don’t include information that is helpful to consumers in making choices about health providers.