Medicaid Changes And Other Health Legislation Highlights

Apr 5, 2018

From opioid prescription limits to an agreement on the regulation of trauma centers, it was a busy year for health care issues in the Florida Legislature.

Health News Florida's Julio Ochoa sat down with Christine Sexton from the News Service of Florida to talk about what to expect from some of the new laws.

Christine was there anything in the budget that impacts health care?

Yeah and this is actually heating up a little bit lately. There's a 100 million dollar reduction in the Medicaid budget that the state hopes to achieve by reducing the amount of time someone has to apply for the Medicaid program. Current policy is a person who has 90 days to apply and get the program and in that 90 day time frame the state is willing to pick up the health care bills that that person accrues. But the legislature this year changed that policy and they're going to give people 30 days to apply. And there's some concerns about the number of people who will be affected by it. Initial estimates show about 39,000 people in 2015-16 retroactively had their bills picked up by the state.

And I imagine that hospitals and nursing homes and other providers may be concerned because they care for these people and may not be getting reimbursed.

This is all about the reimbursement to the provider. Medicaid doesn't send money directly to the person to pay the health care bills. So yeah definitely the health care providers could be impacted.

So the federal government would still have to approve this cut is that, right?

Absolutely.

Hurricane Irma had an impact on some legislation this year after several nursing home residents died due to a power outage, legislators took action and now all nursing homes and assisted living facilities are required to have generators and 72 hours of fuel. Will they get any help to pay for that?

I think short answer is yes. The state changed how it pays nursing homes and it’s kind of a complicated formula but nursing homes will be able to include the cost of these generators in the information they send to the state for their payments.

Opioids were a big issue this session and legislators signed a bill that provides 53 million dollars for treatment and prevention. It also sets three- and seven-day prescription limits for doctors. Can you tell us how this will be implemented?

The licensing boards are going to implement the rules that are necessary to regulate these health care professionals who are going to be impacted by the law. So that would include physicians, dentists, pharmacists.

We also heard a lot about a concept called direct primary care for those of us who haven't heard about it. Can you explain what it is and how it affects the relationship between doctors and patients?

Direct Primary Care is essentially an arrangement where a doctor or a doctor's group enters into contracts with patients or even patients' employers and they say for X amount of dollars a month I will agree to provide you these services. It's not "insurance" and that's what the legislature did. They made it very clear that these arrangements that doctors and patients can enter into are not insurance.

Trauma centers that treat the sickest and most injured patients also got some attention this year. The state has had to defend itself against lawsuits that claim its system of approving new trauma centers is not fair. Lawmakers, this year, seem to have come up with a solution. Can you tell us about that?

Yeah, I think I think a lot of credit goes to Sen. Dana Young. What the agreement does is it allows a lot of the trauma centers that have been up and operating at HCA-owned facilities to continue to operate. But it changes the law to really try to prevent future litigation from ever happening again.