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Budget Impact Of Drug Imports, Telehealth Unclear

Florida Legislature
Florida House of Representatives
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Florida lawmakers may have passed major health-care legislation during the 2019 session, but the impact of two bills on the upcoming year’s state budget is indeterminate, a panel of economists agreed Wednesday. 

Members of the Revenue Estimating Conference met to evaluate several newly passed pieces of legislation, including bills related to importing prescription drugs from Canada and setting up a regulatory framework for “telehealth.”

The bills (HB 7073 and HB 7067) deal with fees that would be collected in prescription-drug importation programs and from out-of-state medical providers who use telehealth to deliver services to Florida patients.

The economists said permits required for the drug-importation programs could range from $300 to $800 and inspection costs could be between $1,000 and $3,000. But they agreed the impact to the state finances was “indeterminate” because the programs aren’t expected to be implemented during the fiscal year 2019-2020 budget, which begins July 1 and ends June 30, 2020.

Amy Baker, who directs the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, said she is aware that Gov. Ron DeSantis, who along with House Speaker Jose Oliva made the drug-importation programs a priority, will aggressively seek federal approval of the plan. If implemented, Baker said it “will be a big deal.”

On the telehealth issue, the economists said there was no way to determine the number of out-of-state physicians who would register with the state and pay fees.