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News & Press: Legislative News

Legislature puts Northeast Florida at Center of Healthcare Debate

Tuesday, April 25, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Bryan Campbell
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With less than two weeks to go until the scheduled end of the 2017 Florida Legislative Session, there is very little clarity on exactly what will happen. There is a seemingly insurmountable gap between the Senate and House budgets, which opens the possibility for Special Sessions like we saw in 2015.

Healthcare issues are always a critical part of the budget discussion, and two major policies being considered directly impact Northeast Florida, and specifically UF Health Jacksonville. (read more)

LIP Funding

The good news for UF Health Jacksonville is that Governor Scott and President Trump have announced that $1.5 million will be available to Florida in Low Income Pool (LIP) funding. These dollars help safety net hospitals care for poor and uninsured patients. President Obama had set the LIP funds for Florida to expire to entire Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

The availability of the funds is good news for all safety net hospitals in Florida, including UF Health Jacksonville. At this time, AHCA is working to determine the formula and exactly how the funds will be dispersed.

Trauma Center Battle

The bad news for UF Health Jacksonville is that despite the determination of AHCA that only one trauma center is needed in the region, a House Committee approved a bill yesterday would expand the need in the region to two. That would allow by legislative rule the Orange Park Medical Center Level 2 Trauma Center to remain open. Earlier this year, a judge ruled that the center should not have been allowed to open. The Orange Park center has treated approximately 1500 patients who would have been treated at UF Health Jacksonville since it opened last year.

At this time, there is no Senate version of this bill.

Optometrist Surgery Bill

A bill that would allow Optometrists to perform surgical procedures was temporarily postponed in the House Health & Human Services Committee last week. The bill had been through multiple committee stops but faced strong opposition from organized medicine. The Senate companion for this bill has not moved and time in the session is running short. We will continue to monitor if the language gets amended to a different bill.

Nurse Practitioner Independent Practice

Another measure which would allow for ARNPs to practice independently has moved to the floor of the Senate. The bill passed the House Health & Human Services Committee by a narrow 10-8 vote last week. It advances now to the floor of the House where it has strong support from leadership. The Senate version of the bill has not gained traction, but we will continue to monitor, as above.

Medical Marijuana

The future of “medical marijuana” in Florida is, pardon the pun, very hazy. Six separate bills were filed in an effort to legislate the implementation of Amendment 2, which expanded the medicinal use of cannabis in Florida. While 71% of voters supported the Amendment, how it should be regulated remains a key sticking point.

Issues of contention include whether or not to allow for cannabis to be smoked, vaped or consumed in food products, the number of dispensaries allowed in the state, and the creation of a statewide education program around marijuana. Expect many shifts in this legislation in the next week, but there is a need to pass something to address the Amendment, so expect a compromise to form in the coming days.