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Senate Telemed Bill in Turmoil

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.

SB 1646 sets up a legal framework for doctors to have virtual visits with patients in-state and across state lines, among other things.  Such consults are already taking place doctor-to-doctor and within hospital systems, but without a legal framework established, health plans have been reluctant to pay.

FMA has insisted that physicians consulting from other states should have Florida licenses; health plans and hospitals have opposed that, saying it would snuff out a promising new technology that would increase patient access to care and potentially cut costs.

At Tuesday morning's meeting of the Senate Committee on Communications, Energy and Public Utilities, Bean offered compromise amendments. They would limit out-of-state patient consults to physicians who lack Florida licenses to organizations such as hospital networks, health plans and emergencies.

Over objections from several committee members, Bean succeeded in getting those amendments adopted. The bill now goes to Appropriations.

The Senate Health Policy Committee is scheduled to consider SB 1230 by state Sen. Alan Hays,  R-Umatilla, which would expand the number of physician assistants that one doctor may supervise from four to five. Originally the measure had proposed a ratio of one to eight, but that ran into trouble. The meeting begins at 3 p.m. Tuesday.


The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, which also meets at 3 p.m. Tuesday, will take up a bill that requires health plans contracting with state Medicaid to offer at least two products in each therapeutic class on their drug formularies. SB 1354would also standardize the forms that doctors have to deal with when seeking authorization to order a drug or service not covered under the plan.

On Tuesday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign into law a package of bills that would require sexual predators to be locked up longer, WJXT Newsreports. It would also require that more sexual predators be committed for psychiatric review once they finish their criminal sentences.

The wide-ranging legislative package attempts to close loopholes in the Jimmy Ryce Act, which allows for the psychiatric review, or civil commitment, of sexually violent offenders even after they finish their prison sentences.

Lawmakers in both chambers have said the inspiration for strengthening the laws came from the death of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle last June and a newspaper investigation on sexual predators who were released only to commit more crimes.

The full Senate could vote on a controversial bill (SB 670) that would shield nursing-home investors from negligence lawsuits. It is sponsored by state Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine.

Lawmakers from both parties who support a move to legalize a type of marijuana extract that has non-euphoric properties, called "Charlotte's Web," held an online session at Sayfie Review on Monday, as Tribune/Scripps Capital Bureaureports.

Critics of the measure, who say the substance lacks sufficient testing, blasted the online show for omitting any voice of opposition.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.