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‘Con’ Repeal, Telehealth Teed Up For DeSantis

doctor uses a computer in a telehealth consultation with a patient
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Five health-care bills were formally sent Tuesday to Gov. Ron DeSantis, including a pair of bills that were priorities of House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes.

In perhaps the highest-profile measure, DeSantis received a bill (HB 21) that would eliminate the long-controversial “certificate of need” regulatory process for new hospitals and certain hospital services, effective Monday. The state Agency for Health Care Administration is scheduled to hold a public workshop July 3 about so-called CON rules in light of the legislation, which DeSantis is expected to sign into law.

DeSantis also is expected to sign a bill (HB 23) that would create a regulatory framework for telehealth services, including the use of out-of-state physicians to provide services under certain circumstances. That part of the bill would take effect Monday, while another provision, addressing insurance payments for telehealth services, wouldn’t go into effect until January 2020.

Oliva, who has made disrupting the health-care system a priority, championed the CON and telehealth bills. He argued, for example, that eliminating the requirement of obtaining certificates of need from the state for new hospitals and “tertiary” services would be a more free-market approach to health care.

After receiving the bills Tuesday, DeSantis will have until July 10 to sign, veto or allow them to become law without his signature.

DeSantis also received a Senate bill (SB 322) that, in part, would allow the sale of short-term health insurance policies. The bill was backed by Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican who is slated to become Senate president after the 2020 elections.

The bill would give Florida insurers the green light to sell scaled-back health insurance policies under a pair of rules issued by the Trump administration. The rules were issued as a way to blunt the federal Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare.

Simpson’s bill also, for the first time, would put into the Florida insurance code a requirement for health insurance to be sold to people regardless of pre-existing medical conditions. Obamacare also offers such protections, which are popular with voters. But Obamacare faces a court challenge and has been attacked for years by Republicans.

The bill would amend the state insurance code to makes clear that if Obamacare is repealed by Congress or struck down by the United States Supreme Court, insurance companies in Florida would be required to offer access to policies to people with pre-existing conditions.

DeSantis also received a bill (SB 732), sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, that would require plastic-surgery centers to register with the state and designate physicians who are responsible for the offices. The bill also would require the Department of Health to inspect registered offices at least annually, including a review of patient records, to ensure compliance with the rules.

Flores filed her bill in response to a series of articles published by USA Today and the Naples Daily News about  two Miami-area clinics overseen by physician  Ismael Labrador. The clinics have lost eight patients over the years and account for about 20 percent of the plastic-surgery deaths in the state.

The fifth bill sent to DeSantis on Tuesday was a measure (HB 843), sponsored by Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez, R-Doral, that includes a series of health-care issues, including establishing a student-loan repayment program for dentists who work in public-health programs or underserved areas.