Florida Legislature 2014

The rules setting up Florida’s medical marijuana industry are being picked apart by a legislative panel, the News Service of Florida reports. The Joint Administrative Procedures Committee told Department of Health leaders that many of the rules it suggests violate the law approved by the Legislature this past spring, the News Service reports.

Ninety-three organizations in the state that are working in coalition under the title Health Care for Florida Now are asking Floridians to sign a petition calling for the state to accept federal funds to expand coverage to low-income adults who are in the so-called "Coverage Gap."

In 2013 the Florida House voted not to accept the $51 billion over 10 years in federal funds available for the program under the Affordable Care Act even though the Senate approved it and Gov. Rick Scott said he would sign it.

In 2014's session, the debate never occurred.

Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano tells how Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a long-time opponent of the Affordable Care Act, nevertheless has asked the federal government for ACA funds to cover his state's uninsured citizens.

The medical-cannabis bill awaiting Gov. Rick Scott's signature has sparked many hopes and fears. But most of them are unwarranted, writes public-health retiree and consumer activist Gary Stein. 

His column, published in ContextFlorida, notes that the Legislature wrote a very narrow bill to allow prescriptions of "Charlotte's Webb," an oil extract that has little of the chemical that produces euphoria but is high in one that eases pain and seizures.

The 2014 Florida Legislature passed a number of bills relating to health care, most of them modest in scope. 

But at least one that passed will probably save lives: the Child Welfare Act, which in part responds to the deaths of 477 children who were supposed to be under the protection of the Department of Children and Families.

The DCF overhaul had already begun before the session, but was intensified after the Miami Herald published the series Innocents Lost.

The two biggest health initiatives of the Florida House for 2014-15 both died at the hands of the Senate during the final 36 hours of this year's legislative session, which ended around 10:30 Friday night.

They were:

--Allowing nurse practitioners who have sufficient training to practice independently of physician supervision;

--Setting up a structure under the law for the growth of distance health care through  telemedicine or telehealth, terms used at various times during the session.

The Health Care Clinic Act, which would close a gap in health-care regulation, passed all four of its Senate committees by a unanimous vote and is poised for passage on the Senate floor. And yet its companion bill in the House was never heard at all.

With just three days left in the session, SB 746 would ordinarily be considered dead. And yet, its sponsor isn't giving up. Sen. Eleanor Sobel hopes to attach it to an issue considered a must-pass in the House. 

“We have to find a way to stop all these scam artists,” said Sobel, D-Hollywood.

Cannabis Bill Clears Senate

Apr 28, 2014
Tom Benitez/MCT /Landov

An extract from a strain of low-THC marijuana would be legal for medical use to treat epileptic children under a bill overwhelmingly passed by the Senate on Monday. Now it goes to the House.

The Senate voted 36-3 to pass the legislation, which supporters said could help sick children who have no other hope. It now goes to the House for consideration.

“This is the last resort for some folks, for their children,” said Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. “We have a responsibility to do what we can to alleviate the suffering and pain of children.”

Florida House

After two hours of debate and often-emotional testimony, the House Judiciary Committee endorsed a plan Monday to allow doctors to prescribe a marijuana extract to desperate patients for whom it provides relief from seizures or pain.

HB 843 by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, passed 15 to 3 despite some stiff opposition. Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong warned that it is unwise for the legislature to bring untested drugs to market  rather than going through the formal process through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Florida Senate's telemedicine bill, which is less onerous to the Florida Medical Association than the House bill,  swiftly became a target for critics during a committee appearance Tuesday morning. Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, threw on a number of amendments to stanch the bleeding.

Carol Gentry / WUSF

Al Lopez Park in Tampa is normally an oasis of serenity on a Monday. But on the last day of open enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the community center was crowded, noisy and stressful. Hundreds of procrastinators came seeking help from navigators.

It was a microcosm of the nation, as 3 million Americans visited the HealthCare.gov website and another 1 million used the call-center line on the last official day to sign up for a 2014 health plan.