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7 posts from September 13, 2013

September 13, 2013

SEC: Board of Jackson Health System misled investors in advance of 2009 bond sale


Following a three-year investigation into the finances of Jackson Health System, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday charged the Public Health Trust that governs Miami-Dade’s $1.5 billion-a-year public hospital network with misleading investors about the extent of its deteriorating finances in advance of an $83 million bond sale in September 2009.

The federal action arrives just as Jackson officials are in the midst of a campaign to persuade Miami-Dade voters to pay for another bond issue — this one for $830 million.

But while the SEC investigation found that Jackson’s board misled bond investors in 2009, the agency order stopped short of accusing any individual trustees or administrators of intentionally causing the deception.

Instead, the agency attributed the failure to a new billing system that inaccurately recorded revenue and patient accounts receivable.

The SEC’s order did not impose monetary penalties or administrative actions against Jackson due to the hospital system’s fragile financial recovery, the board’s cooperation with investigators and remedial measures taken, such as the hiring of outside consultants and the restructuring of the board.

More here.

Scott's blind trust complies with new law, Ethics Commission decides

The blind trust that Gov. Rick Scott set up two years ago to manage a large part of his finances still meets the approval of the Commission on Ethics.

Scott asked for the Commission's opinion to ensure the blind trust complies with a new state law passed by the 2013 legislature.

"The governor has hit all the requirements of the statute," said the panel's general counsel Christopher Anderson, who added that Scott was "ahead of the game" in 2011 and complies with the new law.

The panel -- with five of its nine members appointed by the governor -- voted unanimously to approve Anderson's opinion.

The essence of a blind trust, he said, is that a "disinterested fiduciary" is handling the official's finances.

But Integrity Florida, has questions about the role of Scott’s trustee, Alan L. Bazaar, a partner and co-CEO of Hollow Brook Wealth Management LLC. Bazaar co-managed a public company portfolio for Richard L. Scott Investments, LLC from 1999 to 2010.

""An issue that still needs to be addressed is whether the manager of the trust is a business associate of the governor, which is prohibited by the new ethics law,” said Dan Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida.


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Sayfie Summit leaders develop list of goals but challenge is turning them into policy

As Florida soon becomes the nation’s third-largest state, its future should include citizens who are the healthiest in the nation, consume water at half the rate of today, rely on alternative vehicles for transportation, power their lives with alternative energy generated by unregulated producers and give their children the kind of education that has all third graders reading at grade level.

Those are some of the more than two dozen “big hairy audacious goals” developed by a bi-partisan group of 300 business, government, union and non-profit leaders at the Sayfie Review Florida Leaders Summit in Orlando on Friday. About 30 legislators attended the two-day summit, tasked with considering the theme of "Disruption" as technology, growth and changing consumer demands reshape Florida. 

The list of 26 goals, generated during a series of round-table discussions, will next be posted on the Sayfie Review, the news aggregation site run by the conference organizer Justin Sayfie. Readers will be asked to vote on which ideas they want Florida leaders to pursue.

His site attracts 25,000 unique visitors a month and he has a 5,000-person email distribution list that he has identified as the state’s “thought leaders.” Sayfie said he hopes to harness that distribution network to generate feedback on the ideas.

“People are more likely to champion ideas if they feel they are part of the process,’’ Sayfie said.

Sayfie declared the high-minded exercise in futuristic thinking a success as the two-day conference wrapped up. But, he acknowledged, the next challenge will be translating propositions to policy in state and local government.

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Debbie Wasserman Schultz gets a Pants on Fire

From @PolitiFact:

As the United States debates using force in Syria following its alleged use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21, 2013, many members of Congress have criticized President Barack Obama’s threat to dictator Bashar Assad as a bad diplomatic move.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., defended him when she spoke with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer,comparing Obama’s international credibility favorably in comparison with that of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

"You know, President George W. Bush had significantly degraded our international influence around the world," she said. "We stood alone in the war in Iraq. We were roundly criticized and rightfully so. And today, we have 35 nations that signed the statement in support of the U.S.'s commitment to strike. ... So President Obama's leadership has rebuilt our credibility around the world with leaders that was decimated in the previous administration."

Read our findings at PolitiFact.


Atwater: Learn about the Affordable Care Act, but watch for scams

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater says he's committed to helping small business owners and other Floridians learn about the provisions of the health care law. But he also wants people to watch out for scammers who are using the law to trying to swindle personal information from people eager to sign up for coverage.

The bulletin Atwater put out today does not criticize the law and is free from the combative tone other Republican lawmakers have used when discussing the Affordable Care Act. Also, it comes at a time when Gov. Rick Scott is receiving growing pressure from Democrats to denounce a Department of Health policy keep enrollment advisors from helping patients at local health departments sign up for coverage. Scott continues to avoid the issue.

Affordable Care Act scams are a legitimate concern, as Atwater points out. Companies not affiliated with the federal health exchange that people will use to shop for insurance coverage are running ads on TV and radio and setting up websites that could confuse people, officials say.

The people actually being paid by the federal government to help Floridians sign up for coverage are being trained not to ask for personal information. They don't begin working until Oct. 1 and will be housed at government and non-profit agencies.

Here is the full statement from Atwater:

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'Navigators' won't collect personal info, enrollment groups say

The director of an organization that received a sizeable federal grant to help the uninsured sign up for coverage said the workers she hired won't be collecting personal information and will be trained to avoid confidentiality breaches.

Those comments by Jodi Ray of Florida Covering Kids & Families directly address concerns raised by  Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and other Cabinet officials. Ray said the workers, known as "navigators," will be trained and ready to begin Oct. 1.

"We're not really collecting information, we're assisting people with the application," she said during a conference call with the media this morning. "So we're not going to be walking away with their information, there's no reason for that."

Ray's organization, based at the University of South Florida, has been helping families sign up for Medicaid and a similar insurance program for children for 15 years. She said the navigators-in-training, paid using a $4.2 million federal grant, will be well versed on privacy laws and also are required by the state to be licensed and pass background checks.

There was a second controversy Ray wouldn't address: the dustup over the Department of Health policy that bars navigators from working inside local health departments. She declined to comment.

Ron Pollack, executive director of national organization Families USA, said that's because groups like theirs want to steer clear of the political debate about the health care law and instead focus on its implementation.

"I think the time for politics about the Affordable Care Act is over, and so we're not going to engage in that controversy here and now," he said during the call.

Continue reading "'Navigators' won't collect personal info, enrollment groups say" »

More Democrats decry 'harmful, spiteful' ban on 'navigators' as Rick Scott avoids issue

Nine Florida Democrats serving in the U.S. House have joining the growing list of liberals bashing a state policy barring paid health care advisors from contacting patients at local health departments.

“This announcement from the Florida Department of Health is the latest attempt by Republicans in Florida to create roadblocks to successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act," the lawmakers said in a joint statement. "To ban Navigators from utilizing county health centers to assist uninsured people signing up for health insurance is simply unconscionable."

They ended the statement with a direct challenge to Gov. Rick Scott: “We call on Gov. Scott and the Florida Department of Health to put Floridians first and lift this harmful, spiteful ban immediately.”

(Scroll down for the full statement and a list of the nine congressmen.)

Asked Thursday to respond to the controvery, Scott told reporters his main concern about the navigators was privacy but stopped short of saying whether or not he agreed with the DOH policy.

He has not explained how much his office knew about the directive and whether he signed off before local health departments were told about it. Asked for Scott's response to a letter from U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor Thursday, the governor's office directed reporters to the DOH communications staff.

The Herald/Times followed up with three questions:

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