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House Speaker Says Health Care Remains ‘Focus’

Jose Oliva addressing a room.
Florida House of Representatives
The Florida Channel
House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, address a room.

House Speaker Jose Oliva said Tuesday that health care continues to be his top priority for the upcoming legislative session after he pushed through a series of changes last year. 

“Health care remains the central focus of our agenda. And that’s not by our own doing, that’s because it kind of chose us,” Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, said during an interview on the Preston Scott show on WFLA radio in Tallahassee. “In spite of all the positive economic indicators in Florida, health care continues, nationwide … to cripple families. And so that’s what we’ve chosen as our main goal, is to try to inject some sort of free market principles into a very broken health-care system.”

READ MORE: The Key Issues Entering The 2020 Florida Legislative Session

Oliva said he spent a “good amount” of time on Monday preparing for the 2020 session by discussion scope-of-practice expansions, health-care affordability and access to care.

“That continues to be our focus,” Oliva said.

A House health care panel in December approved a proposal (HB 607) that would allow certain advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants to practice independently from physicians.  The measure, sponsored by Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park, is similar to a proposal that passed the full House during the 2019 session but stalled in the Senate.

Senate President Bill Galvano told The News Service of Florida in December that he’s “always been very cautious” about expanding scopes of practice for nurses and physician assistants. Physician groups also have long lobbied against such proposals.

“That’s an issue that probably will have to be worked out, if at all,” Galvano, R-Bradenton said.

The Legislature in recent years has taken steps to expand the scope of practice for advanced practice registered nurses. In 2016, lawmakers authorized advanced practice registered nurses to prescribe controlled substances. But the law maintained a requirement that the nurses have supervisory relationships with physicians.

Pigman’s bill would build on that and allow certain advanced practice registered nurses to practice without written agreements with supervisory physicians. To qualify, the nurses would need to have completed a graduate level course in pharmacology and have 2,000 hours of supervised practice in the preceding two years.

In short, the advanced practice registered nurses would be able, like physicians, to admit, manage and discharge patients at hospitals and other facilities, as well as prescribe medication, write orders and sign and certify documents such as death certificates.

Meanwhile, Oliva does not seem as interested in pursuing limits on lawsuits --- commonly known as tort reform --- as part of his health care agenda during the 60-day session, which starts Jan. 14.

When asked on the radio show whether it is possible to “have true health care in the state, or even nationally, without dealing with tort reform,” Oliva replied, “Yes.”

“The main issue in health care, again, is that the state keeps paying these exorbitant bills,” Oliva said.

Oliva in 2019 spearheaded a number of bills that he argues will lower health care costs, including a measure that eliminated the longstanding “certificate of need” regulatory program for hospitals. Also, Oliva was a key backer of a bill that lays the groundwork for the state to begin importing prescription drugs from Canada and other countries.