Takeaways from Tallahassee: Rick Scott gets good Medicaid and jobs news, enters FAMU snakepit

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The first step is done. Now, Florida officials will try to convince the federal government that they should be able to remake the Medicaid system statewide.

The Obama administration this week gave long-awaited approval to Florida’s extension of a pilot program that requires most Medicaid beneficiaries in five counties to enroll in managed-care plans. The decision was a victory for Republican leaders who ultimately want to put beneficiaries statewide into HMOs and other types of managed care.

Gov. Rick Scott also claimed at least a small victory this week when the state’s unemployment rate continued dropping. But Scott drew criticism when he called for the suspension of Florida A&M President James Ammons amid investigations into the alleged hazing death of a Marching 100 band member.

A round-up from Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida:

NOW COMES THE BIG ENCHILADA: State Agency for Health Care Administration officials negotiated for more than a year with the federal government to get approval to extend the Medicaid pilot program through June 2014.

But in the end, approval appeared to be more a matter of when — not if. That approval came Thursday, with the feds attaching some new restrictions on the pilot to try to ensure quality patient care.

Scott and AHCA Secretary Liz Dudek praised the approval of the extension and said the pilot has been successful. But both also made clear that it is only a step toward overhauling the system statewide, which also likely will take months of negotiations with the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.