August 1, 2005 Senior Editor Regular News Confronted by the government, section holds its ground Confronted by the government, section holds its ground Jan Pudlow Senior Editor Little did Scott Solkoff realize when he became chair of the Elder Law Section that he would wind up summoned to the Capitol and threatened with criminal prosecution.The government accused him — and Florida’s other elder law attorneys — of illegally helping qualify rich clients for Medicaid.Solkoff countered that elder law attorneys are simply doing their duty to advise their clients on how to protect their life savings so they can qualify for needed insurance through the Medicaid program and receive needed health care without becoming impoverished.“It was a call to courage and a call to principle,” Solkoff told members gathered at the Elder Law Luncheon at The Florida Bar’s Annual Meeting in Orlando June 24.“I was never prouder of this membership when we voted as an executive council that our clients will always come first. When we look at reforms to the Medicaid program, that even if it meant we were going to negotiate ourselves to a worse position business-wise, if we would lose money because we would end up solving the problems that we help people with, that we would prefer that fate. So we recognize that we are advocates, above all, rather than a trade organization.”Here’s what happened, according to Solkoff, a Boyton Beach attorney who is the son of Jerome Solkoff, a founding member of the Elder Law Committee and the second chair when it began as a section:On March 9, he and then-Bar President Kelly Overstreet Johnson were called to a meeting at the Capitol by the office of the secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration.When they walked into a conference room in the Office of the Attorney General at the Capitol, Solkoff said in an interview, “It turned out to be an ambush.” In the room were high-ranking officials from the Attorney General’s Office, Department of Elder Affairs, the Office of the Governor, and AHCA.One government official, he said, was holding an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal and the accusation was that “those elder law attorneys are qualifying those rich clients for Medicaid.”“It took an hour from us educating them,” Solkoff said. “The tone in that room was completely changed after we left.”In summing up their argument, Solkoff offered this scenario:“If you have a married couple who saved up to $200,000 throughout their life, one needs nursing home care that costs $5,000 a month, they will be completely wiped out and the other spouse has nothing. What we do is protect what they have saved, and so they can qualify for Medicaid for care, and use their own dollars to pay for what Medicaid doesn’t cover.“We tried to turn the discussion around that we are not nefarious attorneys trying to bilk the system, but that this is a real social problem that people are facing.”What started with threats of criminal prosecution ended in a changed tone of agreeing to work together to solve the problem, he said.“I say with no ego that I felt that I was at my very best that I have ever been that day,” Solkoff told the elder law attorneys at the luncheon.“It was largely because the words coming out of my mouth were your words, and the words I had heard from all the seminars I attended, and from listening to my father. I was able to explain to the government that we weren’t crooks; we are actually helping people and we are following the law.“I commend this membership for standing strong this year and for being able to talk to the government in a way that was respectful, but not cowed,” Solkoff said. “doing that, we were able to mend fences and help educate people.”During his term as chair, Solkoff created the Joint Public Policy Task Force, a combined effort of the section and the Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys.Lauchlin Waldoch, a co-chair of that task force, praised Solkoff and Johnson for their efforts on the issue.“On that particular issue, I had a very good meeting,” Waldoch said. “The Attorney General’s Office has told us unequivocally that we are not on their radar screen. We are not even on their list, not even at the bottom of the list. So we are going to use that as an opportunity. They have asked us to work with them on a going-forward basis.”The section also now has two lobbyists.“There is a strong likelihood of a special session on Medicaid in October or November,” Waldoch said. “So we’ve got a very, very busy time ahead of us in the next four or five months.”The section’s goal, Solkoff said, is to work with the legislature “to ensure that there is a government system that provides for the health care for people who need it. It’s rather basic. You have people who have worked all their lives and saved their small fortune, and they will lose it all and then be totally reliant on the government dole. We want to make sure there is a health care system in place that doesn’t require total impoverishment.”The section’s new chair, Chris Likens, said, “I am sure Scott had absolutely no clue what was coming ahead,” when he became chair.
Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Mattingly said Fife a favorable review.“I thought Stephen was really good for us,” Mattingly said. “He kept us in the game and was able to stay with those guys.”The Marlins improved the big leagues’ best home record to 13-5, while their 2-10 road record is the worst in the majors.The Dodgers came from behind three times, and a blown save cost Fernandez the victory. With Marlins closer Steve Cishek unavailable after pitching in three consecutive games, A.J. Ramos (2-0) tried to protect a one-run lead in the ninth for his first career save. But Chone Figgins walked and scored on a double by Andre Ethier with no outs.A diving stop by shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and an overturned call on a force play at second base helped the Marlins escape the inning with the score tied.Hechavarria started the bottom of the ninth with a single off Jamey Wright (2-2) and advanced to third on a sacrifice and a groundout.Baker followed with a drive to right, and a retreating Puig slammed his head and lower left leg against the fence. The ball deflected off the wall and hit Puig in the face, and he collapsed to his stomach.Puig was slow to walk off the field but passed a concussion test. The Dodgers said his status is day to day.“He hit the wall good,” Mattingly said. “He seemed to be OK when he was walking in, but I’m sure they are going to keep looking at him. He almost made an unbelievable play.”Fernandez avoided a serious injury in the fifth when he was hit on the back of the left leg by a sharp grounder hit by Dee Gordon. Asked if he expected to make his next start, Fernandez said, “Probably I will be fine.”Fernandez went on to pitch seven innings, left with a 4-3 lead and remained unbeaten at home in 20 career starts. But he lacked his customary command, allowing four walks, and they led to both earned runs against him.“It wasn’t an easy game,” Fernandez said. “Like everybody knows, the Dodgers are one of the best teams in the league. That’s why they get paid the way they get paid.”NOTES >> Outfielder Nick Buss, designated for assignment by the Dodgers on April 30, was claimed by Oakland. … Zack Greinke (5-0, 2.04 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound when the Dodgers open a series today at Washington. MIAMI — Just up from Triple-A and matched against one of baseball’s best pitchers, Stephen Fife kept the game close.The Dodgers’ right-hander pitched six-plus innings in his 2014 big league debut, but Jeff Baker hit a winning RBI double off the wall with two outs in the ninth that gave the Miami Marlins a 5-4 win Sunday.Fife (0-1) stayed in the game longer than Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, who was pulled for a pinch hitter in the seventh with Miami leading 4-3.“Trying to stick with Fernandez, I think that was pretty dang good,” Fife said. “That’s a good pitcher over there, so I tried to keep my team in the game as long as possible.” Los Angeles was in it until Baker’s drive. Right fielder Yasiel Puig slammed into the wall trying for an acrobatic catch and was shaken up but not seriously hurt.Teammates ran out to check on him while the Marlins celebrated their wild victory.“We still had a chance to win right to the very end,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.Fife was recalled before the game from Albuquerque to start for left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, sidelined by a sore shoulder. The right-hander gave up four runs, all on homers — two by Giancarlo Stanton and one by Christian Yelich.“I was throwing righties a lot of curve balls, and lefties a lot of changeups,” Fife said. “Unfortunately, I hang two that leave the yard.”