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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Liz Dudek confirmation clears Health Policy committee, Bean says Armstrong will have hearing



Liz Dudek, secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, got a vote of confidence from Senate health care panel Monday, the first on a road to her re-confirmation.

She won the unanimous approval of the Senate Health Policy Committee, including from two Democrats who asked pointed questions about Medicaid expansion.

“Do you believe that expanding Medicaid improves access to health care?” asked Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa.

“I think that that’s something we would need to look at all around,” said Dudek, who was appointed in 2011 by Gov. Rick Scott. “I believe we have more health care in this state than we had previously.”

AHCA is responsible for negotiating with the federal government over the state’s Medicaid program, including the Low-Income Pool. The pool is shrinking, and it ends after the 2016-17 budget year.

Last year, cuts to LIP led to a budget stalemate and led the Senate to propose a Medicaid expansion proposal, which Scott opposed. On Monday, Dudek was careful how she talked about expansion.

“Do you think that Medicaid expansion could offset uncompensated care costs?” Joyner asked.

A pause.

“I don’t know exactly if it would or would not,” Dudek said.

In the end, even Joyner and Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, who also asked tough questions, voted in favor of Dudek.

The confirmation vote Monday came after Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, prophesied a month ago that Dudek could face a tough confirmation battle.

“I met with Secretary Dudek last week and I told her, ‘You will get very pointed questions from the senators,’ and she needs to be prepared for that,” Gardiner said, adding, “Same thing with Dr. Armstrong, too.”

Dudek still faces the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, as well as a vote by the full Senate. But John Armstrong, the surgeon general, hasn’t yet been scheduled for a single vote.

If he is not confirmed this session, he’ll lose his job.

But despite speculation to the contrary, Bean says he fully intends to put Armstrong up for a hearing.

“You’ll see that happening soon,” he said. 

That could nevertheless be a difficult confirmation, particularly given concerns about kids being removed from the state’s Children’s Medical Services program.

Scott continues to support Armstrong, whom he appointed to the job running the Department of Health.

“Dr. Armstrong has got a great background, he's knowledgeable, he builds good relationships and you want him by your side,” he said. “I believe our agency heads will get confirmed because they're doing a good job.”

[Last modified: Monday, January 11, 2016 6:07pm]


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