The News Service of Florida
HEALTH CARE BRIEFS
TB STRAIN FOUND IN OTHER COUNTIES
The strain of tuberculosis involved in an outbreak among Jacksonville homeless people has been found in 17 other Florida counties, The Palm Beach Post reported this week-end. The state also has asked the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a $250,000 supplemental grant to help it find and treat people exposed to TB. An earlier Post report touched off a controversy about the outbreak, which a visiting CDC official said was among the worst seen in 20 years. Part of the controversy stems from questions about whether the state Department of Health had not released information about the outbreak — including as lawmakers decided early this year to close the A.G. Holley state tuberculosis hospital in Palm Beach County. Department officials, however, have defended their handling of the out-break.
LOW-INCOME FLORIDIANS COULD BE EXEMPT FROM MANDATE
With Gov. Rick Scott vowing to reject a Medicaid expansion, many low-income Floridians could be exempt from a federal requirement that people have health insurance in 2014. Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, sent a letter to governors Tuesday that stemmed from last month’s Supreme Court ruling on the federal Affordable Care Act. That ruling upheld the coverage requirement — often described as the “individual mandate” — but allowed states to opt out of an expansion of Medicaid eligibility, which would be heavily funded by the federal government. “Ultimately, I am hopeful that state leaders will take advantage of the opportunity provided to insure their poorest working families with the un-usually generous federal resources while dramatically reducing the bur-den of un-compensated care on their hospitals and other health care providers,’’ Sebelius wrote in the letter. “If any state were to choose not to do so, the Affordable Care Act exempts individuals who Congress determined cannot afford coverage from the individual responsibility provision.”
CORRECTIONS URGED TO PRIVATIZE HEALTH SERVICES
A potential contractor is urging the Florida Department of Corrections to move forward with privatizing inmate health services, after a judge declined to rule in a lawsuit about the issue. The firm, Corizon, sent a letter to the department last week saying that DOC has the legal authority to contract for prison health care. “Corizon is prepared to immediately enter into contract negotiations with the department upon official notice of contract award,’’ said the letter, signed by Stuart Campbell, the Missouri-based firm’s president and chief operating officer. Lawmakers last year included a prison-health privatization plan in budget fine print, known as proviso language. The Florida Nurses Association and a state-workers union challenged the constitutionality of that move, saying lawmakers needed to make such a change in regular law. But with the proviso language expiring at the June 30 end of the fiscal year, Leon County Circuit Judge Kevin Carroll declined last week to rule on the constitutional issue. The department went through a procurement process during the past year and recommended that Corizon receive contracts to provide health services in North and Central Florida and that Wexford Health Sources serve prisons in South Florida. Attorneys for the state and the con-tractors argued during the law-suit that the department could move forward with prison-health privatization even without the proviso language. Lawyers for the opponents, however, argue that the department would have to go through another procurement process. A DOC spokes-woman said Wednesday that department officials “are still looking at all the options.”