Several healthcare proposals are on the way to the Senate after overwhelming support by the Florida House. Efforts to crack down on balance billing, promote price transparency, and increase the use of Telehealth are up in the final weeks of the legislative session.
Many of the plans, like a South Florida needle-exchange pilot program, have been before the Florida legislature for years. But this year, it’s personal for lawmakers like Rep. Kristin Jacobs.
“I have a friend who just died in the parking lot of a Walgreens from a heroin overdose with a needle still in his arm. I have a colleague with a daughter who hung herself from the rafters of a shelter in a park in Broward County. These kids are doing this, and dying, because they don’t see any way out.”
Florida’s crackdown on pill mills is correlating to an increase in illegal drug use, like heroin. The needle-exchange is geared toward stopping the transmission of diseases, like HIV which is also on the rise in South Florida. It’s a big step forward for lawmakers, who previously rejected the bill over worries it would promote illegal drug use.
Another years-long health effort is reaching an end. The state is poised to finally get some rules in place to remote telehealth, as it grapples with an increasing demand for services. Democratic Rep.Mia Jones has sponsored the bill for years, though this time it was Republican Rep. Chris Spowls who carried it:
“Its Antarctica now. It’s Antarctica. It’s non-existent in the context we believe in the House it should look like. A vibrant market," Sprowls said.
The approval of the telehealth bill lays out a path for the system to get off the ground in Florida. It has historically been opposed by the state’s doctor’s association which has fought provisions letting out-of-state doctors practice telemedicine in Florida. And to an extent, some doctors still don’t like it:
“It doesn’t do the crucial thing I think it needs to do, which is to give the Department of Health and Board of Medicine jurisdiction over that doctor," said Rep. Julio Gonzales, an orthopedic surgeon.
Meanwhile, an emerging issue this year—surprise medical bills and a way to crack down on them, also got the okay. Though Gonzales, an orthopedic surgeon, argues another requiring physicians to provide quotes before surgeries, could be burdensome:
“Every physician that’s going to take a patient to the hospital now has to call the insurance company, try to figure out what the policy says, get that in some sort of format for the patient and deliver it in seven days. More oppressively, if the physicians fails to do that, it will be at a cost of $500 a day with a max of $5,000.”
Also getting support in the House, plans to expand ambulatory and recovery care centers; for doctors to take payments directly from patients for primary care services; and a push to let Florida join a multi-state compact for nurses. Advanced Registered Nurse practitioners would also be able to order medications for patients in a hospital, ambulatory surgical center, mobile unit or nursing home. They would also be able to prescribe medications to treat addiction. Republican Rep. Rene Placencia says it will also help address the Heroin abuse.
“We cannot let this continue. I ask for your favorable support on this bill. But I also ask you stay mindful to everything happening on heroin addiction and the adverse effects to all families regardless to all families," he said.
Now it’s the Senate turn. Many companion bills are before Senators. They can choose to accept the issues as they are and send them to the Governor, or amend them and send them back to the House.