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Levine joining FL corp. HMA

By Carol Gentry and Dave Gulliver
7/20/2010 © Health News Florida

The man most responsible for changing the direction of Florida Medicaid is coming back to the state, this time as a corporate executive with a national profile.

Alan Levine, secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals in Louisiana for the past 2 1/2 years, will become a senior vice president for Naples-based Health Management Associates. The publicly traded company operates 58 hospitals in 15 states.

As senior VP for health development operations and government relations, Levine will supervise HMA's lobbyists in Washington and the states, including  five in Tallahassee. He will live in Naples, but says he expects to spend some time in Tallahassee, where he still has a home.

The hiring gives HMA an executive with both intimate knowledge of Tallahassee and a strong reputation and close ties among national Republican politicians. 

Former Gov. Jeb Bush brought Levine in to run the Agency for Health Care Administration, which oversees health-care facilities and Medicaid, from 2004 to 2006. During that time, Levine's Job 1 was getting Medicaid "Reform" -- now called the "Pilot" -- through the Legislature and securing a federal waiver for it. 

The Pilot, currently running in five counties, requires most Medicaid beneficiaries to be enrolled in an HMO or other network managed-care plan that must pay for care out of the premiums the state pays. 

While some consumer groups and physicians have complained that it's hard to get referrals, the program has raised the percentage of patients receiving preventive care, data show. Some members of the Legislature want to expand the Pilot statewide.
HMA announced Levine's appointment, effective Aug. 9, on Friday; he had already announced his departure in Louisiana. He will turn 43 next month.

Since he left AHCA four years ago, Levine is well outside Florida's “revolving door” law, which prohibits lawmakers and top state officials from lobbying their former agency for two years after leaving government service. 

His first stop after government was as chief executive officer of Broward Health, a nonprofit that runs some 30 facilities in Broward County. In January 2008, he jumped to Louisiana after Gov. Bobby Jindal recruited him to help rebuild the state's health infrastructure following Hurricane Katrina.

While there, Levine cut the health budget, brought managed care to Medicaid and outsourced mental health care, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.

His links to Jeb Bush and to Jindal, a rising star in Republican politics, have propelled him into national party politics. He recently wrote a paper on health care policy for the Republican Governors Association and met with advisors for Meg Whitman, the party’s candidate for governor of California.

Levine told the New Orleans newspaper he’s popular because the GOP has so few health policy wonks. "The shortest book in the world is, 'Republicans that I've known and met that know a lot about health care,' “ he said. 

Levine says he didn't mean to single out Republicans. Candidates from all parties seldom have a background in health care, he said.

He plans to continue his advisory role, he said in an e-mail. “I love being able to be helpful, and as long as they ask my opinion, I'll keep giving it!” 

--Carol Gentry, Editor, can be reached at 727-410-3266 or by e-mail. Dave Gulliver is an independent journalist in Sarasota.