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Change to nursing home staffing among health-related bills signed by DeSantis

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Facebook / Gov. Ron DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis holds up his signature on the No Patient Left Alone Act during a media gathering in Naples, one of 42 measures he signed into law on Wednesday.

The nursing home industry lobbied for the measure, which drew opposition from the senior advocacy group AARP Florida and other critics who contended it would reduce care for residents.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed 42 bills, including a heavily debated measure that will change staffing standards in nursing homes.

The nursing home industry lobbied for the measure (HB 1239), which drew opposition from the senior advocacy group AARP Florida and other critics who contended it would reduce care for residents.

RELATED:DeSantis signs law to require that health facilities allow visitors, even during crises

The most controversial part of the bill involves certified nursing assistants, who provide much of the hands-on care in nursing homes.

Current law requires that certified nursing assistants provide a minimum of 2.5 hours of direct care per resident per day. The bill would reduce that to two hours.

Also, current law requires that certified nursing assistants and licensed nurses provide a weekly average of 3.6 hours of direct care per patient per day. The bill would keep that 3.6-hour average, but it would allow time spent by other types of workers, such as physical therapists and occupational therapists, to be factored into the calculation.

Supporters said the changes would provide more flexibility to nursing homes and help address staffing shortages.

“Facilities can use respiratory therapists, mental health therapists, social services, occupational therapists that will care for the residents based on their unique and individualized needs,” Kristen Knapp, a spokeswoman for the Florida Health Care Association, a nursing-home industry group, said Wednesday before DeSantis signed the measure.

But opponents, including representatives of AARP and the Service Employees International Union, which represents nursing-home workers, said they are concerned about certified nursing assistants spending less time with residents.

“It reduces the time that CNAs spend with nursing home residents by 20 percent, and we are absolutely opposed to a cut in nursing home care,” AARP spokeswoman Jamie Mongiovi said.

DeSantis’ office announced the bill signings in a news release after 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Among the other measures related to health care signed by the governor:

CS/CS/SB 1950 – Statewide Medicaid Managed Care Program. The law will help set the stage for the Agency for Health Care Administration to award billions of dollars in Medicaid managed-care contracts. The agency during the past decade has gone through lengthy processes twice to award contracts to managed-care plans and is expected to begin a third round this year. Article.

SB 312 – Telehealth. The law will expand the authority of physicians to prescribe controlled substances through telemedicine. Doctors will continue to be prohibited from using telemedicine to prescribe what are known as Schedule I and Schedule II substances, which include drugs that are considered highly addictive. Article.

CS/CS/SB 1262 – Mental Health and Substance Abuse. The bill makes several changes to procedures surrounding voluntary and involuntary examinations of individuals under the Baker and Marchman acts. Article.

CS/HB 1521 – Professional Counselors Licensure Compact. This allows counselors apply to have their qualifications extended to another participating state. Article.

CS/SB 1770 – Donor Human Milk Bank Services. The bill allows Medicaid reimbursement for donor human milk for inpatient use as an optional covered service. Article.

HB 459 – Step-Therapy Protocols. This law requires an insurer or HMO to publish on its website, and provide to an insured in writing, a procedure for an insured patient and health care provider to request a protocol exemption. A step therapy establishes the sequence in which prescriptions, procedures or courses of treatment must be used to treat a condition.

HB 539 – Nursing Home Financial Reporting. This requires nursing homes to submit audited financial statements to the state annually. Article.

CS/CS/CS/HB 543 – Uterine Fibroid Research. This requires the state Department of Health to develop and maintain an electronic database of information related to uterine fibroids.

HB 593 – Telecommunicator CPR. This requires 911 operators to complete telecommunicator CPR training every two years.

HB 817 –Treatment to Minors Without Parental Consent. This removes requirement that emergency medical care or treatment to minor without parental consent be administered in hospital or college health service.

HB 855 – Managed Care Plan Performance. This requires AHCA to report data broken down by race, ethnicity, and other demographics-a key strategy to addressing treatment disparities.

CS/HB 1099 – Living Organ Donors. This prohibits insurers under specified policies from declining or limiting coverages and discriminating against persons based on their status as living organ donors.

CS/HB 1209 – Administration of Vaccines. This law allows pharmacy technicians to administer specified vaccines under certain circumstances.

SB 236 – Children with Developmental Delays. This redefines “exceptional student” for purposes of special education programs by extending the age limit for determining if the student is developmentally delayed from age 5 to 9 (or completion of second grade).

CS/SB 292 – Newborn Screenings. This adds congenital cytomegalovirus (cCMV) to the newborn screening panel along with additional testing requirements.

SB 534 – Schizophrenia Prescriptions for Medicaid Recipients. This creates an exception from step-therapy authorizations within Medicaid for a drug if the physician provides documentation it is medically necessary.

CS/SB 544 – Drug-related Overdose Prevention. This allows pharmacists to order and dispense naloxone, allows law enforcement to store and administer the anti-overdose drug and shield officers from liability, and authorizes public schools to arrange to buy naloxone.

CS/SB 566 – Mental Health Licensure. The amends the minimum education requirements for licensure as a clinical social worker, marriage and family therapist, or a mental health counselor.

CS/SB 632 – Occupational Therapy. This expands the scope of practice of the occupational therapist and the occupational therapy assistant.

CS/CS/SB 926 – Licensure Examinations for Dental Practitioners. The calls for use of a manikin rather than a live patient during a licensure exam for a dentist or hygienist and removes a provision that required malpractice insurance for applicants.

CS/CS/SB 1222 – Acute and Post-acute Hospital Care at Home. This authorizes paramedics to perform certain life- support practices to patients receiving acute and post-acute hospital care at home under the supervision of a physician.

CS/CS/SB 1374 – Clinical Laboratory Testing. This law exempts registered nurses from clinical laboratory personnel license requirements under certain circumstances.

CS/SB 1844 – Commission on Mental Health and Substance Abuse. This creates a commission on mental health and substance abuse within the Department of Children and Families.

SB 7002 – Information Relating to Medical Marijuana. This saves from repeal the public records exemption for certain identifying information of patients, caregivers and physicians held by the Department of Health relating to Florida’s medical marijuana program.

Health News Florida producer Rick Mayer contributed to this report.