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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Medicaid fraud fighting and Jeff Atwater's race for CFO



This might be the beginning of the end of ripping off Medicaid willy-nilly. But the politics will be a constant.

Consider today's announcement by Sen. Joe Negron, with Attorney General Bill McCollum alongside, that he's sponsoring a Medicaid fraud bill. It has been posted since March 1. That didn't stop McCollum's opponent for governor, state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, from lambasting McCollum's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and stating last week that "nobody's" concentrating on Medicaid fraud.

McCollum, a Republican, said today he "strongly disagrees" with Sink, a Democrat, and said his office has reaped record collections and amassed record convictions.

The bill unveiled Tuesday would expand prosecutions and investigations of Medicaid HMOs, interesting in that Negron, when he first was elected to the House in 2002 fought unsuccessfully against HMOs for a patients bill of rights. The bill also creates a $1.5 million Medicaid fraud "strike force," and strengthens Sink's office by putting the CFO in charge of the strike force and moving some public-assistance fraud prosecution under the CFO.

But that will only happen after the elections. Who will fill her seat? Probably Negron's good friend, Republican Jeff Atwater, who just so happens to be Senate President. Negron said the bill has nothing to do with Atwater.

So, since the CFO is so central to this bill, surely the sitting CFO was consulted. Nah. Sink's office wasn't called about the bill until yesterday. However, Senate budget staff emailed her office March 1 about the bill after it was filed. "Nobody" paying attention, eh?

Here it is: Download SB 8_Proposed Committee Substitute

-- Marc Caputo

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 12:26pm]


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