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Lawmakers Discuss Challenges, Opportunities For FL Healthcare

(L-R) Sen. Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), Rep. Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor) and Jose Gonzalez of AIF.
Florida Channel

State lawmakers and healthcare industry leaders are taking stock in the wake of this year’s legislative session.  The Associated Industries of Florida just wrapped up a healthcare affordability summit.

Wednesday Rep. Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor) joined Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) to tout their successes in the last session and discuss Florida’s healthcare challenges moving forward.  Sprowls is proud of his healthcare transparency bill, but he has some regrets about a telehealth measure.

“I’m not sure that we were completely happy with where we ended up as far as the policy,” he explains.  “I think we had to agree with what we could agree on.”

“I think what both chambers could agree on is that we’re not seeing the level of telehealth in Florida that we want to see,” he went on, “we’re not seeing the engagement from people like the Cleveland Clinic and folks who could provide really world class care here in our state.”

The problem is one of scope.  Inclusion of out of state providers like the Cleveland Clinic raises opposition among some in the domestic healthcare industry.  Brandes supports telehealth, but he wants to see licensure streamlined.

“We should be a leader in this,” he says bluntly.

“But whatever we do with telehealth has to be simple and straightforward.  For example, why don’t we just simply say if you’re a board certified physician, and you have $1 million worth of insurance that meets the level for Florida, and you can provide telehealth inside the state.”

They also agree on the obstacles ahead for Florida’s healthcare market.

“You know I think the math is not on our side,” Brandes says, “Our population is getting older, they’re living longer, finding primary care physicians is more difficult, and so I think you’re going to find an explosion of mid-levels.”

“Where Florida needs to invest heavily is in the nurse practitioner space, physician’s assistant space as a way to extend the physician’s reach,” he goes on.

And they have a handful of solutions outside of telehealth as well.  Brandes believes the state should consider ways to get young men and women started in high school for careers in healthcare. 

Sprowls says the state should lower the bar for out of state retired healthcare practitioners eager to volunteer at low-income clinics.

“They’ve said you know I would donate my time to a community health clinic.  I’d go and spend several days a week in that community health clinic if I could, but I can’t because I’m not licensed to practice medicine in Florida,” Sprowls says.

He calls allowing licensed retirees to volunteer at health facilities is a no-brainer. 

Both lawmakers seem skeptical of a medical marijuana measure on this November’s ballot.  Brandes says the state’s existing framework can’t handle the expanded patient base if the initiative passes.

“If the constitutional amendment passes you could have 200,000 patients for a system that was designed for forty sick kids that doesn’t scale,” he says.

Sprowls believes it would lead to de facto recreational use.  The ballot language allows treatment for debilitating medical conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS and ALS—it would also grant access for post-traumatic stress disorder.

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.