State Capitol Briefs
The News Service of Florida
DR. HARRIS TO DO
Department of Health Deputy Secretary Dr. Steven Harris will leave his DOH post to become director of medical services for the Florida Department of Corrections. Harris who will step down from his position Aug. 2, has been in the news lately responding to questions about the agency’s response to a tuberculosis outbreak in the Jacksonville area.
STATE RANKS COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENTS
Trying to further inject business-like metrics into state government, the Scott administration has compiled a ranking of public health departments. The document was finished in December but hadn’t been widely circulated until a report Friday by the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau. It gave the Indian River County health department the top ranking, followed by Gilchrist, Union, Baker and Bradford counties in rural North Florida. Broward scored best among metro counties, followed by Miami-Dade and Pinellas. The lowest rankings went to Liberty, Franklin and Calhoun counties in the Panhandle. State Surgeon General John Armstrong, the secretary of the Department of Health, said in a news release Friday that the measures used to rank counties will continue to be revised. “The overall purpose of these measures is to support continuous performance improvement in DOH activities across all counties,’’ Armstrong said. “Only when performance gaps are identified can they be properly addressed”.
AG, FTC WIN CASE AGAINST ALCOHOL ‘TREATMENT’ FIRM
Attorney General Pam Bondi announced Thursday that her office and the Federal Trade Commission have gotten a court order requiring the Alcoholism Cure Corporation and its owner pay more than $730,000 to consumers, alleging the company offered a phony alcoholism cure. The order also bans the Jacksonville-based company and Robert Douglas Krotzer, the owner, from marketing or selling any treatment or cure for alcoholism, drug addiction, or any other human health-related problem. The company allegedly told customer they could cancel the program any time, but threatened to publicly reveal customers’ alcoholism. The allegations were first pursued by the attorney general’s office in 2010 when Bill McCollum headed the office. The company couldn’t be reached for comment.
FLORIDA AT TOP OF DOCTOR DISPENSING
Doctors in Florida dispense medications to workers-compensation patients at one of the highest rates in the country, according to a study released Thursday by a Massachusetts-based group. The study, by the Workers Compensation Research Institute, found that 62 percent of drug payments in Florida were for physician-dispensed medications, second-highest in the country behind Illinois. Also, it found that 45 percent of the drugs in the Florida workers-compensation system were dispensed by physicians, the second-highest rate behind California. The report looked at injury claims that occurred between Oct. 1, 2009, and Sept. 30, 2010, and pre-scriptions through March 31, 2011. Physician dispensing of what are known as “repackaged” drugs has become a controversial issue in Florida, with business groups arguing that the practice drives up workers-compensation insurance costs. Backers of the practice, however, say patients are more likely to receive and take medications if they get them from physicians instead of filling prescriptions at pharmacies. The Workers Compensation Research Institute is a non-profit group that says it does not take positions on the issues it studies. Its board of directors is mostly made up of officials from insurance companies and large employers, according to the group’s website.
COUNTY UNPAID MEDICAID BILLS SHRINK
The amount of money that counties will have to pay to the state in a controversy about Medicaid bills has been substantially reduced, according to the Florida Association of Counties. Lawmakers said early this year that counties owed $325 million in back payments, a figure that counties disputed. Counties are required to share a portion of the costs for certain hospital and nursing-home care for residents enrolled in Medicaid. But the association said on its website that the state has reduced the outstanding total to $172.3 million. Officials from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration traveled to counties throughout the state after the legislative session to discuss the Medicaid bills. The association of counties said AHCA reduced the outstanding total because of issues such as being unable to verify the counties where some Medicaid beneficiaries live. The association and most counties have filed a lawsuit in Leon County Circuit Court challenging the constitutionality of a law aimed at recouping the money.