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AHCA chief gets reprieve

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4/28/2010 © Health News Florida

Tom Arnold, secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, apparently will be allowed to continue in his job even though a Senate committee declined to confirm him because Senate leaders decided not to take the decision to the floor for a vote

Crist appointed Arnold to the job last fall and, under state law, the agency head was required to go through the Senate confirmation process during this year's legislative session. Arnold would have been forced to leave office if the full Senate had voted against him. But without any action by the Senate, Arnold can be reappointed to the job and continue until Crist leaves office after the November elections.

Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for Gov. Charlie Crist, said in an e-mail message Tuesday night that he expects Arnold to continue in the secretary's job.

"It is my understanding that he would like to continue to serve, and there are no plans right now to ask him to step down,'' Ivey said in the e-mail.

Just two weeks ago, the Senate Health Regulation committee voted 4 to 3 not to recommend confirmation of Arnold to the entire Senate. At the time, as Health News Florida reported, Chairman Don Gaetz said his vote against Arnold had nothing to do with political clashes between legislative leaders and Crist.

Gaetz, R-Niceville, said the vote not to confirm was "a message of no confidence in this agency's efforts to control fraud and abuse in the Medicaid program.''

While that vote was not binding on the full Senate, Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, said it led him to decide against bringing the nomination to the floor for a vote.