Simone Marstiller

A Message from the Secretary

October has been a busy month for the Agency. We kicked off Florida’s Medicaid Open Enrollment, collaborated with leading long-term care experts at Joint Training sessions throughout Florida, resumed the AHCA Seminar & Expo (a health facility construction event) and continued to support the Governor’s vision for high-quality, transparent and cost-effective health care for all Floridians. 

While during the last year, the world has been laser-focused on COVID-19, we have remained committed to our responsibilities of administering the Florida Medicaid program, regulating Florida’s health care facilities through surveys and inspections and providing transparent health care information to Floridians about the quality of care they deserve and receive.

Among those responsibilities is ensuring the nearly 5 million Medicaid members prepare for Florida’s Medicaid Open Enrollment. During Open Enrollment, Medicaid members can check their eligibility, learn about the latest expanded benefits offered by health plans and change their current plan. For more information about Open Enrollment, visit

The Agency continually looks for ways to improve health outcomes and satisfaction to the thousands of vulnerable citizens in Florida’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities. We teamed up with leading long-term care experts for Joint Training. The two-day training sessions across the state, from Tallahassee to Tampa to Miami, offered an in-depth look at critical compliance topics, expectations for infection control and quality improvement practices in long-term care facilities—ensuring residents receive high-quality health care in safe environments.

Speaking of safety, the Agency ensures hospitals and long-term care facilities protect residents and patients at their facilities. As such, we also partnered with stakeholders in one of the nation’s most prominent health facility design and construction events, the AHCA Seminar & Expo. This annual event features nationally recognized speakers providing strategies to construct and build a more resilient and safer health care environment with emergency preparedness at the forefront.

We celebrated Health Literacy Month in October by continuing to promote enhanced patient care and consumer choice through This website provides transparency resources, education and health care facility comparison tools to help consumers confidently make health decisions. Check it out today!

And remember, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Women (and men!) under age 40 should practice self-examination, and women over 40 should get a yearly mammogram. Visit to learn more about the causes of breast cancer and how to be proactive with early detection and healthy habits to reduce your risk of getting breast cancer.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this – flu season typically lasts from October through May. You can get a flu shot by asking your doctor, visiting your health care provider or going to a local pharmacy or clinic. For more information on flu shots in Florida, visit

Be well,





Collaboration Abounds at Joint Training

The Agency for Health Care Administration and leading long-term care experts teamed up to inform providers, associations and state surveyors on regulatory requirements and guidelines to ensure residents in skilled nursing and assisted living facilities receive high-quality health care in safe environments.

The two-day training sessions across the state, from Tallahassee to Tampa to Miami, offered an in-depth look at critical compliance topics, expectations for infection control and quality improvement practices.

Featured speakers from the Florida Assisted Living Association, Florida Health Care Association, Florida Senior Living Association and LeadingAge Florida provided a unique opportunity for participants to learn from experts in the field and gain a better understanding of how to meet the needs of residents in long-term care facilities.

What They are Saying About Joint Training

"These trainings are a must-attend event for every provider who wants to learn from experts in the field and gain a better understanding of how to meet regulatory requirements and the health care needs of their residents," said AHCA Deputy Secretary for Health Quality Assurance Kim Smoak.

"Joint Training is a valuable resource for assisted living providers throughout the state. Providers have the opportunity to hear from and ask questions of the regulators and area experts firsthand, hear answers to others' questions, network with other providers when in person, and add to their communities' toolboxes to strengthen systems and practices, ultimately improving the quality of care to their residents," said Veronica Catoe, Florida Assisted Living Association, Chief Executive Officer. "The Florida Assisted Living Association is proud to be a partner for this very important event and urges our members' participation." 

"FHCA's skilled nursing and assisted living facility members have been working tirelessly under one of the most challenging times that we've ever experienced," said Emmett Reed, Florida Health Care Association Chief Executive Officer. "We appreciate the opportunity to partner with the Agency for Health Care Administration on ways to keep our members informed on the latest developments and share best practices that can support their work on the frontlines. These Joint Trainings allow Florida's long term care professionals to come together and receive valuable education to continue identifying solutions that improve and protect the lives of our state's most vulnerable individuals."

"Florida's nursing homes and assisted living facilities offer among the best long-term care in the nation, and that care continues to improve because of our long-term care professionals," said Steve Bahmer, President and CEO of LeadingAge Florida. "These trainings not only provide the unique opportunity for providers to connect and network with peers, but to also learn from leading long-term care experts to ensure the highest quality of care continues to be provided to Florida's seniors. LeadingAge Florida is proud to be a long-standing partner in this joint effort."


Planning for Emergencies Through Design

and Construction of Health Care Facilities

If there is one thing we learned during the public health emergency, it’s that we must be prepared for the unexpected. COVID-19 has changed how we receive and deliver health care, from visits to primary care physicians to receiving care in long-term care facilities and every stop in between. 

Some of the challenges we saw throughout the pandemic were increased growth in patient volume, pressures for operational efficiency, the need to improve patient flow and decrease healthcare-associated infections. 

Our communities depend on health care facilities to be prepared and operational to deal with various events impacting patients, residents and caregivers. Therefore, building sound facilities play a crucial role in ensuring the health and safety of everyone in the community. 

The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) has partnered with Health Facility Consulting, LLC to host the 37th Annual AHCA Seminar & Expo. During the event, nationally recognized speakers provided strategies to construct a more resilient and safer health care environment with emergency preparedness at the forefront. 

Over the years, the Seminar & Expo has grown into the most prominent state design and construction event in the nation. It has resulted in a higher quality health care environment leading to increased patient safety and satisfaction. 

Seminar attendees are a unique and comprehensive group of leaders from around the state working in health care facility design, construction and management—architects, engineers, health care facility directors, contractors and fire protection specialists. Collaboration among this group ensures that all state and federal requirements are met, paving the way to a healthier Florida through learning best practices in health care system readiness, design planning, space needs and emergency preparedness. 


Florida Medicaid Open Enrollment is here! To find out when your Open Enrollment period begins, visit or call the Agency at 877-711-3662.

If your organization is interested in helping spread the word, contact us




For nursing home residents, positive interactions with staff, other residents and engagement in daily activities contribute meaningfully to the quality of life at this long-term care facility. The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) applauds Avante Boca Raton for creating an authentic and support-driven experience in which residents build purpose into their lives. Icema Gayle, Avante Boca Raton team member for 13 years, finds her purpose as the Activity Assistant for the residents. 


Icema was determined to keep residents active and connected throughout the public health crisis while keeping them safe from COVID-19. As the Activity Assistant at Avante Boca Raton, she is the primary communications contact for residents and their loved ones during times when visitation is limited. Last year, at the height of the pandemic, Icema facilitated 15 to 20 video chats, per day, on Zoom, Google Duo and Facetime. These facilitated calls were so meaningful to the residents and their family members.

Activity Assistant positions are vital to nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The team members holding these important jobs assist with combating feelings of isolation, depression and loneliness among residents. Not only does Icema comfort the residents through this position, but she is also actively engaged in her own purpose-driven wellbeing.

As visitation restrictions eased and video chats were less frequent, Icema continues to "bring the joy" to residents by visiting their rooms with puzzle books, playing card games, singing hymns, or praying together.


"Icema is thrilled to see her residents gathering again, albeit in small groups," said Kim Biegasiewicz, Chief Nursing Officer. "She is appreciated and holds a vital role in maintaining our residents' psychosocial wellbeing during such a challenging time."


The Agency recognizes the importance of creating an environment that fosters wellness, integrity and success. Avante Boca Raton raises the bar to engage individuals and their families through resident-driven positions like the Activity Assistant. We applaud Ms. Icema Gayle and Avante Boca Raton for their efforts. 

Do you have a colleague who has gone above and beyond? Share their story with AHCA Communications today! 




Florida Was Right: The Federal Government Admits Governor DeSantis’ Decision to Put Seniors First Was the Correct Approach to Vaccine Distribution

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report which validates Governor DeSantis’ Seniors First vaccination policy, declaring that “efforts to prioritize and vaccinate” those 65 and older “helped prevent hundreds of thousands of new COVID-19 infections and tens of thousands of deaths among seniors” and “directly correlate[s] to saving lives.”

Governor Ron DeSantis Highlights Monoclonal Antibody Treatment Success in Florida

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First Lady Casey DeSantis Announces Major New Initiative

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