FT. LAUDERDALE, Fl. - AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the parent organization of  Positive Healthcare, a nonprofit agency providing medical care to thousands of Medicaid patients living with HIV in Florida for nearly two decades, on Thursday filed a second public records request lawsuit seeking a Writ of Mandamus against Florida Governor Rick Scott over his failure to provide requested records of communications between the Executive Office of the Governor (EOG) and all other bidders—and their lobbyists—for Florida’s Medicaid AIDS care contracts in the state Agency for Health Care Administration’s eleven service regions. In an article on the new legal action, the Tampa Bay Times notes, “The list of lobbyists includes Dean Cannon, Al Cardenas, Mike Corcoran, Hayden Dempsey, Nick Iarossi, Fred Karlinsky, Larry Overton, Bill Rubin and Gerald Wester, among many others.”

 

The action was filed on Thursday in the Circuit Court of the Second Judicial Circuit, in and for Leon County, Florida (Filing # 77847313 E-filed).

 AHF

Last week, in a separate public records request lawsuit filed against Governor Scott by AHF in July, the same court granted AHF’s petition for a Writ of Mandamus ordering the Governor to make records of his schedule, calendar and other events—including campaign and fundraising events—publicly available to AHF by September 15th. This was a stunning rebuke to the Florida Governor and Republican Senate candidate Scott and a victory for public access to information about publicly elected officlals’ schedules and campaign and fundraising events.

 

Thursday’s Petition for Writ of Mandamus asserts to the Court that:

  

“Petitioner (AHF) has no other remedy but to file a Petition for Writ of Mandamus seeking an order compelling production of the public records responsive to its public records request. Petitioner seeks an expedited order requiring EOG to produce the responsive records before September 28, 2018.”

 

“We are grateful to the court for granting our prior petition for Writ of Mandamus last week, an order which compels the Governor to provide his calendar, travel schedule, place of residence and campaign and fundraising event schedules to us within ten days. However, we also requested information on all communication and correspondence between the Governor’s office and all other Medicaid AIDS care contract bidders—and their lobbyists—but Scott’s office denied those requests as well, forcing us to file today’s action,” said Michael Kahane, Southern Bureau Chief for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “We remind Governor Scott once again that a fundamental part of holding public office is that it is public and as such—and as the court showed last week—that means that certain documents and information must be made public when properly and legally requested.”  

 

In July, AHF filed its earlier petition for Writ of Mandamus after its repeated public records requests to Governor Scott’s office were denied, with his office falsely claiming that the records were officially exempt from disclosure.

 

Advocates from AHF and Positive Healthcare have been protesting—and trying to protest—Governor Scott after the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) failed to renew Positive Healthcare’s contract to cover Medicaid patients with HIV/AIDS in Broward and Miami-Dade, a move that essentially will deny critical healthcare coverage to those living with HIV/AIDS.

 

The organization has been calling out Scott in response to his and state Medicaid officials’ failure to renew an HIV care contract with AHF’s Positive Healthcare. AHF says the state’s move will recklessly disrupt care for a vulnerable population of nearly 2,000 Florida HIV patients.

 

In late April, Florida Medicaid officials announced the awarding of Medicaid contracts, worth up to $90 billion dollars, to five for-profit managed care plans, excluding several other companies, including Positive Healthcare (PHC), the only non-profit healthcare provider that offers insurance coverage for the critical, sensitive healthcare needs of those living with HIV.  As a result of the initial decision, several of the denied agencies, including PHC, filed formal protests with Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA), which manages the state’s Medicaid program, all challenging the state’s decision, citing severe defects in the RFP and decision-making process.  Following the submitted protests, state Medicaid officials met with each of the denied agencies, and subsequently have provided settlements with a select list of the for-profit providers, while continuing to shut out PHC. Positive Healthcare is the only non-profit agency focused is on providing care to thousands of clients living with HIV in Florida who rely on this critical coverage to get the necessary care they need, by the doctors of their choice, to live a healthy life.

 

Scott’s irresponsible actions and lack of transparency occurs while the State of Florida, and specifically Miami-Dade and Broward counties, continue to rise as the nation’s epicenter of the HIV epidemic.  Positive Healthcare currently offers coverage to those living with HIV in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, which rank #1 and #2, nationally for reported cases of new HIV diagnosis.

 

The facts about HIV in Florida under Governor Scott’s watch:

 

  • Nearly 5,000 people in Florida were infected with HIV in 2016 alone, which means one out of every eight new HIV infections in the United States occurred in Florida.
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  • South Florida leads the nation in new HIV diagnoses at 38.7 new infections per every 100,000 people. In contrast, the overall rate in the United States is 12.3 new infections per every 100,000 people.
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  • Nearly 136,000 Floridians are estimated to be living with HIV, but one in six is still not aware of his or her HIV-positive status.
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  • More than 30,000 Floridians currently living with HIV are not receiving care for their infection.
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