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Florida House Pushes Forward A Handful Of Health Tweaks

State lawmakers are pushing forward a number of tweaks to Florida health policy.
Charles Williams via Flickr

A proposal mandating an abortion waiting period took center stage Tuesday on the House floor.  But lawmakers discussed a handful of other measures that could affect health administration in the state, too.

When a bill comes before lawmakers on the House or Senate floor, it’s first read so they can ask questions of the bill’s sponsor before moving to debate and eventually voting on the measure.  Tuesday, lawmakers moved a handful of bills relating to health considerations through this phase of the process.  The first of them has to do with hospital admitting notifications.  Rep. Shawn Harrison (R-Tampa) wants to require hospitals to tell patients whether they’ve been officially admitted or if they were simply under observation.

“This is important because it impacts a patient’s ability to qualify for Medicare if they leave a hospital and go to a nursing home,” Harrison says.

Harrison explains federal law requires a three day admitted hospital stay for a patient to qualify for Medicare.

“If a person has been in a hospital for three days but they were only under observation status, that Medicare qualification does not kick in,” Harrison says.  “The patient can leave the hospital thinking that they have Medicare coverage, and it turns out that they will not and they’ll be in for a very unwelcome surprise when they get the bill from the nursing home.”

Harrison’s says his bill doesn’t require the hospital to officially admit patients, it just mandates the hospital disclose admission status. 

Next, Rep. Rene Plasencia (R-Orlando) brought forward a proposal aimed at speeding up the discharge process for patients held under the Baker Act.

“This bill redefines the definition of psychiatric nurse practitioner,” Plascencia explains, “it increases their education requirements and their certification process.  The bill also stipulates that the psychiatric nurse practitioner will work within a supervisory framework of a psychiatrist.”

The Baker Act allows authorities to take people into custody who are suffering from a mental illness or could be a danger to themselves or others.  But Plasencia says the state’s restrictions on who can approve a patient’s release is leading to crowded hospitals.  His measure adds psychiatric nurses to list of officials allowed to discharge a patient. 

Rep. Ross Spano (R-Riverview) brought forward a measure to continue the fight against pill mills. 

“You’re certainly all aware of the pill mill problem we had here in the state of Florida several years ago,” Spano begins.  “Unregulated pain management clinics were spreading like wildfire, prescribing highly addictive pain pills.”

“Beginning in the year 2009, and subsequent few years, we passed some very effective regulations that cracked down on that.”

Spano says his bill will allow those laws to remain in place.

“The regulations we’ve put into place that have done a great deal toward solving this problem are going to sunset in January 1, 2016,” Spano says.  “This bill would remove that sunset provision in the statute and allow these effective regulations of pain management clinics to continue.”

The Senate version of Spano’s bill has already passed that chamber, so he substituted that version for his own on the House floor.  This way if it passes without changes it heads straight for the Governor.  The House also pushed forward proposals that could change the notification requirements for HIV testing, impose certain vaccinations at nursing homes and alter the regulation of assisted living facilities.

Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University. He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU. While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter. Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan. When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.