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21 posts from April 4, 2013

April 04, 2013

Safety net hospitals criticize Senate's Medicaid payment proposal

Florida hospitals that treat the state's neediest patients say the Senate is taking the wrong approach in how it plans to pay for Medicaid services.

The Senate and the House have come up with different formulas for reimbursing hospitals under a new system called diagnosis-related groups, or DRG. This system is similar to how the federal government pays hospitals for Medicare. It pays according to services patients receive instead of the old way that was based on hospital costs and length of patient stays.

Safety net hospitals panned the Senate budget committee's proposal, and the business community has come to the Senate's defense.

Teaching hospitals such as Miami's Jackson Memorial and Tampa General would collectively lose nearly $70 million under the Senate proposal, according to a preliminary analysis by the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida. All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg is projected to lose $7 million compared to what it currently receives.

For-profit hospital would benefit from the Senate proposal, the alliance said, to the tune of $74 million. 

"Our state’s teaching, public and children’s hospitals are alarmed that the Senate’s plan would result in such deep funding cuts to facilities that educate our next generation of doctors and provide specialized care to some of our state’s sickest children," said alliance president Tony Carvalho. "The Senate’s plan is starkly different from the House, which is guided by fairness and recognizes the critical importance of safety net hospitals."

Carvalho believes the House proposal is fairer. 

Continue reading "Safety net hospitals criticize Senate's Medicaid payment proposal" »

Supreme Court frustrates Tampa immigrant's Bar petition

The long wait continues for a 26-year-old Tampa immigrant who six months ago petitioned the Florida Supreme Court for admission to the Florida Bar, even though he is not a U.S. citizen.

The Florida Supreme Court Thursday denied Jose Godinez-Samperio's motion, and said it can't rule on his admission until it first resolves the question of whether people who enter or remain in the U.S. without legal  permission can be attorneys in Florida. That decision is pending.

Godinez-Samperio's  parents brought him to the United States from Mexico on a visitor's visa when he was 9. They overstayed their visas and never returned to Mexico. He graduated from Florida State University's law school and already has passed the Florida bar examination.

"It's  frustrating," said Godinez-Samperio's lawyer, Talbot (Sandy) D'Alemberte of Tallahassee. "We've got some rules that have been adopted  by the court to govern the Board of Bar Examiners, and those rules say that after he's done all the things he's supposed to do, he gets admitted. There's no rule that says undocumented immigrants can't get admitted to the Bar -- and by the way, he's not undocumented any more. He's got documents."

In the past few months, Godinez-Samperio has acquired a work permit, Florida driver's license
and Social Security card. In January, he was U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor's guest for President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.

-- Steve Bousquet

 

 

 

 

 

 

attorneys in Florida. That decision is pending.

Godinez-Samperio's
parents brought him to the United States from Mexico on a visitor's
visa when he was 9. They overstayed their visas and never returned to
Mexico. He graduated from Florida State University's law school and
already has passed the Florida bar examination.

"It's frustrating," said Godinez-Samperio's lawyer, Talbot (Sandy)
D'Alemberte of Tallahassee. "We've got some rules that have been adopted
by the court to govern the Board of Bar Examiners, and those rules say
that after he's done all the things he's supposed to do, he gets
admitted. There's no rule that says undocumented immigrants can't get
admitted to the Bar -- and by the way, he's not undocumented any more.
He's got documents."

In the past few months,
Godinez-Samperio has acquired a work permit, Florida driver's license
and Social Security card. In January, he was U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor's
guest for President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.

A  Tampa man brought into the country as a child on a visitor's visa has been denied a license to practice law in Florida. The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday denied Jose Godinez-Samperio's motion for admission to the Bar.

That's because the court can't rule on his admission until it resolves the question of whether people who enter or remain in the U.S. without legal permission can be attorneys in Florida. That decision is pending. Godinez-Samperio's parents brought him to the United States from Mexico on a visitor's visa when he was 9. They overstayed their visas and never returned to Mexico.

He graduated from Florida State University's law school and already has passed the Florida bar examination.

Miami Senator calls on Scott to stop flow of 'armor piercing' bullets

 Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, said armor-piercing bullets have become ubiquitous in his district and is asking Gov. Rick Scott to do something about it.

In a letter to Scott’s office Thursday, Bullard called on Scott to begin an investigation into the flow of deadly bullets into South Florida, calling them "military-grade" and saying his constituents are living in "open war zones."

“As night falls in many of these communities, families gather before twilight not to feast, but to fear,” he wrote. “They lock themselves in to lock out those who prey the streets with high powered weapons that pierce a home’s walls as effortlessly as they pierce a child’s body.”

Bullard also lamented the fact that several gun control bills are languishing in the Florida Legislature, which has been reluctant to entertain the gun debate.

Here’s Bullard’s letter to Scott:

Continue reading "Miami Senator calls on Scott to stop flow of 'armor piercing' bullets" »

Rep. Wilson rails against sequester but helped vote for it

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, bashed Republicans on the sequester this morning but she too played a role in it. The backdrop of Wilson's presser today in Pembroke Pines was to criticize the FAA's decision to include the North Perry airport on the list to stop paying for air traffic controllers.

But Wilson, surrounded by local Democratic officials, used the opportunity to call out the GOP. In truth, the White House and both parties are responsible. We will borrow from PolitiFact's guide to the sequestration to explain. In 2011, President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner failed to reach a "grand bargain" about the federal budget leading to the Budget Control Act of 2011.

From PolitiFact: "That law included about $1.2 trillion in future budget cuts, but it also directed Congress to find another $1.2 trillion via a bipartisan "supercommittee." As further incentive, the law had a threat: If a supercommittee couldn’t agree on a package, or if Congress voted down the supercomittee proposal, a sequester would automatically go into effect, putting in place nearly across-the-board budget cuts, with half coming from defense. Both Obama and Boehner supported the plan and urged Congress to pass it, which it did, with bipartisan majorities. The supercommittee deadlocked, though, so it never proposed new cuts. Hence the sequester."

We asked Wilson's office for an explanation as to why she voted for the Budget Control Act but then called hreself a "strong opponent of the sequester," in a press release. Here is the response we got from Wilson's office:

“In the Summer of 2011, Tea Party Republicans first engaged in a hostage-taking tactic with the American economy: They threatened to allow the country to default on its debt payments if they did not get their way in the budget debate. Defaulting on our debt would have devastated our nation’s credit ratings and would have ultimately cost more than a million American jobs. The Budget Control Act was a last-ditch compromise effort to defuse this Tea Party hostage-taking. I disliked the Budget Control Act then, just as I do now. But Democrats were forced to vote for it as a way to avert an even bigger crisis. I have sponsored multiple pieces of legislation—including, most recently, H.R. 900 “The Cancel the Sequester Act”—to seek to fix it. No one—including the President and moderate Republicans—expected the sequester to be implemented. It was designed to force Congress to quit playing politics and come together to reach a sensible agreement. By allowing the sequester to take effect against President Obama’s efforts to stop it, the Republicans in Congress have demonstrated that they would prefer to hurt the American people through job-killing budget cuts than to compromise. “

At the airport today, Wilson heaped the blame on the Republican party saying that "we find out this sequestration is something that the Republicans seem to enjoy."

Wilson said that as sequestration continues "you are going to see so much suffering from the constituencies of our districts. I feel that once the Republican constituency base begins to feel these cuts you will see a movement across this nation that will cause the Congress to react and to fight the sequestration."

Wilson described sequestration as punitive and said "We understand now they are cutting Head Start, that they are cutting meals on wheels, that they are cutting research, that they are cutting cancer medications."

Wilson said that sequestration will lead to the loss of millions of jobs and lead the country to the brink of a Depression.

"This has become the civil rights movement of 2013," Wilson said. "We've got to say to all of our churches, all of our elected officials, all of our citizens, all of our agencies, this cannot continue. It's going to hurt people, people will suffer, people will lose their homes, people will lose their tax breaks."

Broward County Commissioners voted earlier this week 8-1 to backfill much of the cuts by providng about $43,000 a month through September. That will allow the airport tower to remain open 10 hours a day down from the current 14. The contractor who provides the staff is expected to layoff three workers. 

Tony Saavedra, a single father of two teenagers, is among those getting laidoff. He is considering other job options including returning to Afghanistan as a civilian contractor. 

"It's ridiculous it's getting to this point," he said of the sequester

Airport officials said that the FAA included North Perryon the list based on about 135,000 operations last year. But the traffic was down because two runways were closed for reconstruction. During the past six years, the  airport had an average of about 155,000 annual operations and projected 160,000 for 2013.

The tower is the 9th busiest in the U.S. and has five flight schools. Planes can fly when the tower isn't staffed, but the majority of the flights occur during the  hours when traffic controllers are present. 

Broward County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger, Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis and Miramar Mayor Lori Moseley expressed concern for the safety of residents who live surrounding the airport. Ortis said seniors living in the nearby senior apartments on the Howard Forman campus are fearful.

"We don't want to see lives lost," Gunzburger said.

County Commissioner Chip LaMarca, the lone member to vote against the funding, said in an interview that he voted against the county taking over the federal government's funding responsibility. LaMarca said that all parties involved in the federal budget are at fault. (He has to be careful to avoid the blame game because he faces re-election in a left-leaning district in 2014.) 

As for the cuts, "I think it is being done in a manner to try to bring people into hysteria."

To read multiple fact-checks on the sequester read the round up by PolitiFact.

 

 

Amendment would free schools from private tutoring requirement

Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, added an unexpected provision to her sweeping education accountability bill Thursday: a pitch to free Florida school districts from having to provide private tutoring services at low-income schools.

Under current law, Florida school districts must spend 15 percent of their federal dollars for low-income students on private tutoring services. Passidomo's pitch: Give school systems the option to spend that money on tutoring, or on other programs for low-income children instead.

"We feel that each school district is in the best position to determine and understand the needs of their students, and the best use of their Title I funding," Passidomo said Thursday.

State Education Commissioner Tony Bennett agreed.

"It will increase choices because it will set up a survival of the fittest," Bennett said. "It will weed out bad providers and allow school districts to chose the best programs for their students."

The committee added the language to the bill and sent it along to the House floor.

Private tutoring programs, also known as Supplemental Education Services, have come under intense fire in recent months. Earlier this year, a Tampa Bay Times investigation found that tutoring providers have operated in Florida with little oversight and no clear track record of producing results, despite having received millions in federal dollars.

Continue reading "Amendment would free schools from private tutoring requirement" »

Miami-Dade backed 'Pet Trust' bill stalls in committee after cat fight with NRA

A bill that would allow local taxpayers to create special taxing districts for the purpose of spaying and neutering animals stalled in a House Committee on Thursday, after the National Rifle Association and others voiced opposition. 

The bill, HB 1127, seeks to use property tax dollars to help reduce the number of animals euthanized each year in Florida, which some say is as high as 800,000. 

Last year, a majority of Miami-Dade voters supported the idea of a small new tax for helping to control the pet population. The bill would have made it easier for voters in other counties to do the same. 

But the clock ran out at the House Committee on Local and Federal Affairs before a vote could take place. No one on the committee requested an extension of the meeting, the customary practice in the Legislature when there’s a time crunch for a vote. Instead, the meeting ended abruptly. 

It was not clear if the bill would pass -- it faced strong opposition from gun rights groups and veterinarians. 

Marion Hammer, a lobbyist for the NRA and the Unified Sportsmen of Florida, said the bill would make Florida a dumping ground for other states to offload unwanted pets. 

“If this bill passes, Florida could become the pet welfare state of the nation,” she said. 

Continue reading "Miami-Dade backed 'Pet Trust' bill stalls in committee after cat fight with NRA" »

Five Things To Know for Thursday's Legislative Session

Both the Senate and the House are in session Thursday, and several key issues are on the agenda. Here are five things to watch:

-The House is expected to vote on the so-called "parent trigger" bill that would allow parents to petition to have their child's traditional public school converted into a charter school. We expect a split along party lines on HB 867.
-The Senate will discuss its Internet cafe ban during session, but no vote is expected. Members may decide to amend SB 1030 to address concerns from adult arcade operators.
-Also on the Senate agenda for discussion: Legislation that prohibit law enforcement agencies from using drones to track suspects without a search warrant (SB 92). 
-A bill that opponents have described as creating a "free agency" system in  high school athletics is up for a vote in the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee. HB 1279 would revise the rules used by a state governing body to investigate student transfers.
-One of several abortion-related bills making their way to the House floor will be debated in the Health and Human Services Committee. HB 1129 affords the same rights to a baby born alive during or immediately after an attempted abortion as a child born at a hospital.
(Tia Mitchell, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau)

Bill to end permanent alimony draws acrimonious debate

Connie Bacher was awarded $1,400 in monthly alimony payments when her 23-year marriage ended in 2009.

At the time, she was living paycheck to paycheck and caring for her two daughters in Key West. But she considers the lifelong payments even more important now, she said.

“If I lose my alimony, I’ll have to cut my health insurance or quit buying my medications,” said Bacher, a bank loan officer who suffers from osteoarthritis in both knees and will likely need surgery later this year. “I don’t know what I’ll do.”

A proposal on its way to the Senate floor could force her to find an additional source of income.

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would put an end to permanent alimony payments, and allow the courts to modify existing arrangements between former spouses. The bill would also require judges to give divorced parents equal custody of their children, unless one parent could make a convincing case otherwise.

Proponents of the proposal say it would not end alimony altogether but make it more fair.

“This is something that has been horrible for people for so many years,” said Alan Frisher, co-founder Family Law Reform, a non-profit organization based in Lake County. “People have been stuck paying an order that ties them to their ex-spouse for the rest of their lives, even through retirement.”

But the idea has met fierce opposition from lawyers and people who stand to lose their alimony benefits.

Read more here.

 

Rick Scott's cash-hauling binge, $4.6m in 3 months, is just a warm-up

@MarcACaputo

Remember when we first told you that Rick Scott and Republicans are ready to spend "as much or more" than $100 million on his election? Consider this:

TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Rick Scott’s poll numbers remain stubbornly low, but by another measure he looks much stronger: raising money for his re-election campaign.

Scott’s political machine Let’s Get to Work raised a whopping $4.6 million in the first three months of 2013, raking in cash at the rate of $50,000 every day while chasing a goal of up to $100 million to fund his 2014 re-election campaign.

It’s an unheard of sum even in Florida politics, where money has always been critical.

Individual checks of $10,000 or more flood Scott’s campaign daily, many from businesses and individuals with a heavy stake in legislation, from Blue Cross Blue Shield to U.S. Sugar to an array of law firms with rosters of lobbying clients at the Capitol.

Pinellas County moneyman Bill Edwards stroked Scott a $500,000 check last week.

And while lawmakers are not allowed to accept donations during session because of the appearance of a crass quid pro quo, no such rule limits a governor’s ability to raise money, even though Scott’s veto pen makes him the final gatekeeper on all legislative decisions.

more here from Steve Bousquet


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/03/3321248/gov-rick-scott-raising-big-bucks.html#storylink=cpy

Miami code enforcement to nuns: Stop feeding the poor

From the annals of Why People Hate Code Enforcement comes this from El Nuevo Herald's @danielshoerroth:

Thirty-three years ago, Mother Teresa of Calcutta came to Miami to put her merciful motto of love into action: “To serve the poorest of the poor.”

Since then, each morning a group of sisters of the congregation of the Missionaries of Charity, donning their distinctive white blue-bordered saris, passes through the gates of their beloved Overtown convent — where they live without air conditioning, washing machines or television — and cross the street to enter the world of the poor: a soup kitchen founded by Mother Teresa.

On a recent morning, following the Liturgy of the Hours prayer inside a tiny chapel with the image of Our Lady of Fatima, the sisters, accustomed to listening to candid words from grateful men, woman and children, found a notice of violation with a potential property lien from a City of Miami Code Enforcement inspector posted on an electrical pole.

Apparently the sisters had never obtained a permit for feeding — for free and without using public funds — hundreds of homeless who see in their eyes the universal symbol of compassion and dignity represented by Mother Teresa.

“What kind of violation are we doing?” asked convent superior Lima Marie. “Taking care of the homeless and feeding them is a violation?”

More here


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/03/3321912/mother-teresas-miami-soup-kitchen.html#storylink=misearch#storylink=cpy