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Health News Florida

Anthem to Buy Florida Medicaid Plan

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Simply Healthcare Holdings, a managed-care firm that is a major player in Florida's Medicaid program, will be purchased by Indianapolis-based Anthem, Inc., the companies announced on Dec. 21.

Simply Healthcare, which is based in Coral Gables, operates through subsidiaries Simply Healthcare Plans, Inc. and Better Health, Inc. It manages care for about 170,000 people in Medicaid and 22,000 people in Medicare, according to a news release about the sale.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is expected to close in the first half of 2015. The majority owner of Simply Healthcare Holdings is MBF Healthcare Partners, LP.

That firm is led by Miguel "Mike" Fernandez, a prominent South Florida businessman who served as finance chairman of Gov. Rick Scott's re-election campaign before resigning in March.

Supreme Court Calls For 35 New Judges

After lawmakers turned down requests in recent years for more trial judges, the Florida Supreme Court on Dec. 21 said the state needs an additional three circuit judges and 32 county judges. The request came in an annual process known as a "certification of need" to the Legislature, which ultimately decides whether to approve new judges.

"As the state economy continues to steadily improve, we recognize that in a post-recessionary period competing demands for state funding persist across state government,'' the Supreme Court said in a 10-page document. "We also note that, due in large part to the recession, the judicial branch has had no increase in trial court judges since 2007, despite a documented need."

The court said one additional circuit judge is needed in the 1st Judicial Circuit, which includes Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties. It said two additional circuit judges are needed in the 5th Judicial Circuit, which includes Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties.

"The First Judicial Circuit continues to experience a heavy criminal workload as well as a steady number of tobacco cases, which frequently go to trial and thus require significant judicial labor,'' the Supreme Court said. "The Fifth Judicial Circuit continues to be one of the fastest growing areas of the state with a corresponding workload increase."

The requested 32 county judges are primarily in heavily populated areas, including eight in Miami-Dade County, eight in Hillsborough County and five in Palm Beach County. The Supreme Court did not request any additional appeals-court judges. Lawmakers approved three appeals-court judge positions requested last year.

Measure Proposed To Restore Felons' Rights

A South Florida lawmaker on Dec. 21 proposed a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore the voting rights of most convicted felons.

Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, filed the measure (SJR 208) for consideration during the 2015 legislative session, which starts in March. The proposal would restore voting rights of felons after they have completed their sentences, though it includes exceptions for people convicted of sexual offenses and homicides. Restoration of voting rights has long been a controversial issue in Florida, with Democrats arguing that the state has disenfranchised many people who have served their sentences.