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Senate OKs health board appointees, but not Department of Health secretary

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The Senate on Wednesday approved appointees to the boards of medicine, nursing, podiatry,  dentistry, chiropractic medicine and physical therapy, among others, without fanfare.

The boards are located within the Florida Department of Health and charged with regulating healthcare professionals. The Senate had not, however, moved to confirm the secretary of the Florida Department of Health, John Armstrong, M.D.

Armstrong appeared before the Senate Health Policy Committee earlier this month but was not confirmed by the panel after refusing to answer questions on Medicaid expansion and whether he supported expanding Medicaid to low-income Floridians.

Gov. Rick Scott reappointed Armstrong as DOH secretary in December. His tenure at the Department of Health has not been completely smooth, however.

The Senate failed to confirm Armstrong in 2013 during Gov. Scott’s first term in office. At the time state Sen. Jack Latvala attributed the snub to Armstrong’s failure to appear before a Senate panel. Armstrong served as secretary for one year without confirmation–which is allowable under the law–before the Senate confirmed him the following year.

In July 2014 Armstrong wrote a letter to the federal Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency demanding information about unaccompanied children coming into the United States from Mexico. The Department of Health also has come under fire for its implementation of the state’s limited medical marijuana law with an administrative judge ruling that a proposed rule put forth by the department was invalid.

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