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Florida’s healthcare chief Liz Dudek on hot seat as Senate considers her confirmation

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The session-long drama over health care and Medicaid expansion may peak today when a Senate panel considers the confirmation of Liz Dudek, the head of the agency that oversees Medicaid.

Dudek rolled through a previous committee stop, but a flurry of finger-pointing regarding negotiations between the federal government and the state over the last two weeks, has changed all that.

One big question looming from Senate leaders: What did the Agency for Health Care Administration actually do to try to win support for an extension of Florida’s Low Income Pool program? Another question members of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee will ask Dudek is whether she  believes expanding Medicaid as called for under the federal healthcare law, often called Obamcare, will improve access to health care and the state’s healthcare outcomes.

The fate of the $2 billion program, which drew down $1.3 billion from the feds this year, has resulted in a standoff between the House and Senate over the budget. The impasse worsened on Tuesday after the federal government said that any discussion over the fate of LIP was linked to Medicaid expansion. The Senate is backing expansion, but the House and Gov. Rick Scott are opposed.

Scott’s opposition is based he says on a growing mistrust of the federal government. He has cited a halting of negotiations between the feds and the state as evidence.

But Senate President Andy Gardiner this week says he isn’t sure just how engaged AHCA actually was. He said that it appears that the Senate proposal to revamp the LIP was not officially sent up to the federal government until Monday. Two senators met with federal officials at the end of the March to let them know about the Senate plan — a move that has been criticized by Scott and the House.

Gardiner said he wants to know how AHCA has approached its negotiations with the federal government this year versus how it approached the issue a year ago.

“I think that the question we will be asking is how were these negotiations different from a year ago, how much information has been passed between the governor’s office and CMS,’’ Gardiner said.

Dudek earlier this month put out a statement criticizing the federal government for suspending negotiations, but federal officials have put out their own statements contradicting that.

Dudek was first appointed by Scott, himself a former healthcare executive, to run the massive agency in March 2011. The governor reappointed Dudek and she is one of the few holdovers from his first term in office. Dudek also headed the agency on an interim basis under former Gov. Charlie Crist. She has been at the agency since its creation.

Dudek is the only agency head appearing on the committee’s agenda.


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