Judge continues suit against Florida over child health care


A federal judge refused Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit that alleges Florida provides inadequate care to children in its Medicaid program, despite state claims that privatizing the program will resolve many of the problems.

The state argued that a massive statewide overhaul to privatize Medicaid will raise reimbursement rates, improve doctor participation and address allegations that children can’t get doctor appointments. Attorneys for the state said the lawsuit, which was filed nine years ago, has become moot because of the Medicaid privatization. Statewide enrollment for most children began in May and ends in August.

Judge Adalberto Jordan said the changes are promising, but added there are too many unknowns about whether the program will actually improve access to medical care to dismiss the case.

Under privatization, the state pays insurance companies a set fee to provide care and the companies must follow standards. However, Jordan said it will be some time before it’s clear whether insurers follow through.

“It’s one thing to require standards in a contract. It’s quite another thing to see if they meet the standards and we aren’t going to know that for a very long time,” said Jordan, who said he plans to issue a ruling in October.

The state has spent millions defending the class-action lawsuit that claims Florida is violating federal Medicaid requirements by providing inadequate medical and dental care for children on Medicaid. The initial complaint alleges 390,000 children did not get a medical checkup in 2007 and more than 750,000 received no dental care. Many doctors and dentists won’t accept Medicaid, as Florida’s reimbursement rates are among the country’s lowest. The lawsuit alleges children on Medicaid often must wait two to three months to see specialists, especially in rural counties.

Nearly 3 million Florida residents — more than half of them children — are shifting to privatized Medicaid this year. Insurance companies are required to spend 85 percent on patient care and must expand their network of doctors and hospitals, increase reimbursement rates and meet a host of stringent new standards, said Stephanie Daniel, an attorney for the state. She said that will dramatically improve access to medical care.

Judge won’t delay sentence for ex-House candidate

A judge has refused another delay in sentencing for a failed South Florida congressional candidate in a campaign finance fraud case linked to former U.S. Rep. David Rivera.

U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga denied Justin Lamar Sternad’s fourth delay request. Sternad is to be sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty last year to campaign finance law violations, including accepting illegal contributions and filing false reports.

Altonaga says she may consider delaying Sternad’s potential prison reporting date. Sentencing guidelines call for 12 to 18 months behind bars.

The case involves allegations that Rivera, a Republican, secretly financed Sternad’s campaign to weaken Democratic rival Joe Garcia. Rivera has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, although close Rivera associate Ana Alliegro is also charged in the case.

Rivera is running for the House seat again.

NAPLES

Developer offers reward for missing documents

A Naples developer really wants his missing financial documents. In fact, he’s offering a $1 million reward for information that will lead him to the recovery of accounting ledgers and books related to the construction of the nearly 20-acre Naples Bay Resort project.

About a year ago, Jack Antaramian started his reward offering at $10,000. According to a recent advertisement in the Naples Daily News, it has since grown to $1 million.

In May 2011, Antaramian struck an agreement with the contractor to review the resort project’s books and learned of the missing documents.

He says it’s not possible to do a true audit without seeing bids from the subcontractors. He wants to know where the money that was advanced by the bank went.

ROCKLEDGE

Red Bull spills onto I-95 following truck crash

Thousands of gallons of Red Bull spilled onto Interstate 95 in central Florida after two tractor-trailers collided.

The Florida Highway Patrol says the crash happened Monday evening near Rockledge.

Troopers say the truck hauling more than 30,000 pounds of Red Bull was heading north when the driver tried to move over to the center lane because another truck was disabled on the shoulder of the road. When the driver swerved back into the outside lane, his truck sideswiped the parked vehicle. The trailer on the first truck ripped open and the energy drink spilled on the road.

The driver of the truck was ticketed for failure to maintain a single lane. No injuries were reported.

TALLAHASSEE

Gaetz chief of staff going to FMA

Chris Clark, the chief of staff to Senate President Don Gaetz, will leave state government to become a senior vice president of the Florida Medical Association, the physicians’ group announced Tuesday.

Clark, who also previously worked as an aide to former Gov. Jeb Bush, will become senior vice president of public affairs July 21. Gaetz, a Niceville Republican, will leave the Senate presidency after the November elections.

Gaetz has been widely viewed as an ally of the FMA. As an example, Gaetz played a key role this year in blocking a proposal that would have allowed nurse practitioners to provide care without the supervision of physicians, a proposal that the FMA fought.

Gardiner chooses aides for president’s office

Incoming Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, will make some changes in the staff of the president’s office while keeping other top aides, according to a list released Tuesday.

Among the moves, Reynold Meyer will serve as chief of staff, after Chris Clark held the role for Gaetz. Also, Stacy Vancamp Garcia, a longtime adviser to Sen. Gardiner, and Andrew Mackintosh, who is currently the deputy staff director in the Senate majority office, will move into roles in the president’s office.

Also, Tony Cortese will serve as Gardiner’s education policy adviser. Meanwhile, other aides in the Senate president’s office — Lisa Vickers, Carol Gormley, George Levesque, Debbie Brown, Carlecia Collins and Katie Betta — will remain in their current roles, Betta said in an email that included the list. Also, Cindy Kynoch will continue as staff director of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Post wire reports


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