Capitol Briefs

By: News Service of Florida | Posted: March 22, 2012 3:55 AM

The state Agency for Health Care Administration is trying to determine which managed-care companies are interested in taking part in a revamped Medicaid system for seniors. AHCA on Wednesday sent out a short notice asking for companies to submit a "nonbinding letter of intent" about whether they plan to bid for contracts in the new system. Lawmakers last year approved a Medicaid overhaul that eventually would shift almost all beneficiaries statewide into managed-care plans. The state is seeking federal approval of the changes, which would first apply to seniors who need long-term care. Wednesday's notice is a step toward AHCA issuing what are known as "invitations to negotiate" -- a key initial step in the contracting process. The agency says it will issue the invitations this summer in 11 regions of the state. It wants to receive the nonbinding letters of intent by April 18.

A Miami federal judge will hear closing arguments next week in a major class-action lawsuit that alleges Florida has not adequately provided Medicaid services to children. U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan has scheduled arguments Monday and Tuesday in the case, which was filed in 2005 and has involved testimony spread over the past two years. The plaintiffs in the case, including the Florida Pediatric Society, the Florida Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and several children, argue that the state has not complied with federal requirements about children receiving medical and dental services and that care has been hampered by low provider reimbursement rates. In a document filed last week in advance of the closing arguments, the plaintiffs' attorneys argued that a "number of structural, financial and administrative barriers result in children not receiving the access to care federal law has bestowed as an enforceable right." The state, however, filed a document that says the plaintiffs did not prove their claims about access to care and harm caused by reimbursement rates. "Plaintiffs' aim of requiring defendants to pay higher reimbursements to physicians and dentists for certain Medicaid services would have the effect of dictating state budget priorities and would require the state to shift finite funding from other areas which are equally important (such as optional Medicaid services, education and prison administration, to name only a few priorities),'' the state's attorneys said in the document.

Less than a year after agreeing to put up $750,000 to attract a health-technology firm, the state and Bay County have gone to court to try to recoup the money. The lawsuit, filed this month in Leon County Circuit Court, is against Redpine Healthcare Technologies Inc., which received the incentives last summer and promised to create 410 jobs in Bay County. The lawsuit said the software company gave notice in December that it couldn't fulfill the contracts. The state is seeking to recover $400,000 provided through its Quick Action Closing Fund program, while Bay County is seeking $350,000 that came from a local economic-development program. The Panama City News-Herald has reported that the company closed its Panama City office in December after failing to get bridge financing following the loss of a key investor. Documents in the court file indicate that Redpine planned to move its corporate headquarters and operations from Spokane, Wash., to Bay County and also had received incentive offers from Fremont, Neb., and Odessa, Texas. The documents, which were put together by Enterprise Florida before the incentives were awarded, gave the company the code name "Project Soften." In the documents, the company said it was looking to move to a "business friendly" state. "We have been watching Florida under its new Governor Scott and believe that Florida is becoming more business friendly and will offer a competitive business climate in which to grow,'' Redpine said.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Wednesday endorsed the candidacy of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for president, following Romney's win in the Illinois primary. "Primary elections have been held in 34 states, and now is the time for Republicans to unite behind Governor Romney and take our message of fiscal conservatism and job creation to all voters this fall," Bush said in a statement put out by his Foundation for Florida's Future. "I am endorsing Mitt Romney for our Party's nomination. We face huge challenges, and we need a leader who understands the economy, recognizes more government regulation is not the answer, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism and works to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to succeed."  

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