Bill Bypassing State Rules For Nursing Homes And Hospitals Passes Florida House

Apr 29, 2013

A measure allowing certain hospitals and nursing homes to bypass state rules to fill what they’re saying is an immediate need passed the Florida House Tuesday. But, as some say the bill is giving special treatment to financial backers of the Republican-led Florida Legislature.

Republican Representative Marlene O’Toole’s bill does two things.

“Expedited process for skilled nursing facilities and Ten beds for the Miami Children’s hospital,” said O'Toole.

O’Toole’s bill essentially exempts certain nursing home facilities and children’s hospitals from what’s called a “Certificate of Need” review process.

That’s the process nursing home providers must go through before creating a new nursing home or adding nursing home beds. And, in a hospital’s case, they must go through that review process as well to establish a new hospital or expand an existing facility.

According to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, the agency which oversees the review, that process could take up to three to four years, which those who want the exemption say is too long.

The exemption for certain children’s hospitals was a later change tacked on at the original bill’s last committee stop. It was sought by Republican Representative Eddy Gonzalez on behalf of Miami Children’s Hospital. His bill that would have provided that exemption never got taken up in a committee.

Now, O-Toole’s amended bill would allow certain hospitals to provide more “one-stop” services to women who have high-risk pregnancies. It’s a change lauded by many Republicans, like Representative Cary Pigman.

“You have to wonder: Why would you deliver this infant that you know is going to need definitive cardiac care facility at one hospital and then incur the cost of stabilization at that facility and then transfer to the other facility where the definitive treatment will be made. So, when you look at the strictly financial part of it, it makes mores sense to get this infant to the right facility at the right time. So, I stand in support, getting the infant care in the appropriate timely fashion to reduce disability and I think overall it will reduce costs,” said Pigman.

O’Toole’s bill, though, has been criticized throughout the committee process because it appears to exempt the Villages from going through the “Certificate of Need” process to create new nursing home beds. The Villages is a retirement community in Central Florida and a major contribution source of Republicans.

But, Republicans, like Representative Doc Renuart, praised the bill for allowing more nursing home beds in areas where he says it’s needed.

“I support that we have a skilled nursing facility right by the Villages, because as you have spouses…Separating spouses by miles, making them travel to see their wife or their husband is certainly an undue burden. I think we need to have these facilities close to where they’re needed,” said Renuart.

Still, O’Toole’s original bill itself was still a matter of great concern to most Democrats and few Republicans, like Representative Mike Fasano.

In the bill’s last committee stop, Fasano had tried to redirect the original bill to commission a study to see if there’s a need for additional nursing home facilities. Fasano says that’s because the measure is really about making Republican donors happy.

“It’s all about money. It’s not about good public policy. It’s not because there’s a need. Let’s not just pick and choose because somebody happens to be a big supporter of a political party. Let’s do it for the right reasons and we’re doing it for all the wrong reasons,” said Fasano.

Still, his attempt to repurpose the bill failed. And, the bill did pass the Florida House Monday largely along party lines 73 to 40 with most Democrats opposed. Meanwhile, its Senate companion is stalled in the committee process and has not yet been taken up in its last committee stop.

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