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Health License Suspensions Targeted

Stethoscope on a pile of money.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Doctors, nurses and other health care providers who fail to repay student loans wouldn’t have their licenses automatically suspended, under a bill (SB 66) approved Tuesday by a Senate committee. 

The bill, approved unanimously by the Senate Health Policy Committee, would eliminate part of current law that requires the state Department of Health to, at a minimum, suspend the licenses of health care practitioners who default on loans until new payment terms are reached or loan payments are resumed.

“I believe that health care practitioners who are unable to repay their loans are not delinquents and should not have their livelihoods taken away due to a financial difficulty,” bill sponsor Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, said. “No one chooses to default on a loan, and punishing nurses and doctors for defaulting does not help resolve the underlying issue.”

Cruz said 12 states have similar laws on the books, but only Florida is enforcing the law. Cruz said 31 practitioner licenses were suspended by the Department of Health between 2004 and 2016.

That number, however, increased to 128 licenses in 2017. The bill would need to clear the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee and the Appropriations Committee before it can be considered by the full Senate during the legislative session that begins Jan. 14.