State Capital Briefs (Evening Edition): Friday, March 11, 2016
The News Service of Florida
PHILIP NAMED ACTING SURGEON GENERAL AFTER ARMSTRONG EXIT
With Surgeon General John Armstrong failing to get confirmed by the Senate, Gov. Rick Scott on Friday named Celeste Philip as the state's acting surgeon general. The annual legislative session ended Friday without the Senate confirming the appointment of Armstrong, forcing him out of the job that doubles as secretary of the Florida Department of Health. Philip has served as deputy secretary of the Department of Health and filled in as surgeon general when Armstrong was diagnosed with colon cancer in September. Armstrong, who has served as surgeon general since 2012, faced opposition from many senators, and his appointment could not get through the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee. Philip, a family-medicine physician, has held various positions at the Department of Health since 2008, according to a release from Scott's office.
HEALTH CARE TRANSPARENCY BILL GETS FINAL OK
Florida lawmakers Friday gave final approval to a bill aimed at helping consumers get more information about health-care prices and quality. In nearly unanimous votes, the House and Senate approved the bill (HB 1175) after the sponsors, Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, and Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, worked out remaining differences. Passage of the bill comes after Gov. Rick Scott during the past year repeatedly criticized the hospital industry for not providing enough transparency about prices. Scott accused the industry of price "gouging" --- a charge that hospitals vehemently disputed. Bruce Rueben, president of the Florida Hospital Association, issued a statement praising the bill after Friday's approval. "The Legislature has demonstrated responsible leadership by passing House Bill 1175 to increase the availability and usefulness of information about health care prices and quality of care,'" Rueben said. "This bill will help people make better informed health care decisions." The bill, in part, would require the state to contract for a "consumer friendly" Internet platform that would allow patients to research costs of health-care procedures and compare prices. Patients would be able to search by condition or bundles of services that "are comprehensible to a layperson," the bill says. In presenting the bill Friday, Sprowls said the House is trying to use greater health-care transparency as a "disinfectant," putting out information and letting the market respond. The House voted 116-1 to approve the bill, with only Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, dissenting. The Senate followed a short time later in a 34-1 vote, with Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, opposed. The bill now goes to Scott.
ABORTION BILL AMONG 46 SENT TO SCOTT
A proposal to increase clinic regulations and bar public funding for organizations associated with abortion clinics was among 46 bills sent to Gov. Rick Scott on Friday. The controversial measure (HB 1411) would add a requirement that the Agency for Health Care Administration conduct annual inspections of abortion clinics and review at least 50 percent of patient records. Also, the bill would require arrangements between clinics and hospitals. For example, clinics that provide first-trimester abortions would be required to have written patient-transfer agreements with hospitals or the clinic physicians would be required to have admitting privileges at hospitals "within a reasonable proximity." One of the most heavily debated parts of the bill deals with barring public funds for organizations affiliated with abortion clinics. While such funds don't go for elective abortions, they can be used for other services provided by the clinics. Other bills that Scott will now have a week to act upon include HB 427, which would offer a 12 percent discount to boaters on registration fees if they buy and register emergency locator devices, and HB 195, which calls for a special election on Aug. 30 for a proposed constitutional amendment that would provide businesses with a property-tax exemption for renewable energy devices.