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As lawmakers head home, a look at health care-related bills sent to DeSantis

A crowd gathered Friday for a traditional handkerchief-drop ceremony marking the end of the legislative session.
Tom Urban
News Service of Florida
A crowd gathered Friday for a traditional handkerchief-drop ceremony marking the end of the legislative session.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has already signed a controversial law to ban abortion at six weeks of pregnancy, but there are more than a dozen bills related to health care still stacked up for his consideration.

After 60 tumultuous days of fighting about abortion, immigration and LGBTQ+ issues, the Florida Legislature ended its annual session Friday by unanimously passing a $117 billion state budget.

Nevertheless, as the traditional hanky drop and “sine die” declaration closed the session, lawmakers left the Capitol with a stack of bills on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.

Many of them are related to health care.

Backed by a Republican majority in both chambers, DeSantis guided a session that reflected a hard-right philosophy that intensified during COVID-19. After initially agreeing to pandemic shutdowns, DeSantis soon established himself as one of the GOP's most aggressive critics of federal public health measures.

To catch up on two months of lawmaking, here is a list of health-related measures ready for the governor’s consideration:

Transgender treatments: (CS/SB 254): Makes it a third-degree felony for health care providers to render gender-affirming treatments such as puberty blockers, hormone therapy or surgical procedures to minors. Adults seeking such treatments must sign consent form and treatments must be rendered by a physician. Prevents use of telehealth in providing such treatments. Defines civil liability regarding providers who provide such treatments to minors.

Abortion limits (SB 300): Prevents abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. Allows exceptions for abortions up to 15 weeks in documents cases of rape, incest or human trafficking. Requires that abortion-inducing medication be provided in person by physicians. Prevents abortions through telehealth. Expands services through organizations that counsel women against abortions. Law contingent on outcome of Florida Supreme Court challenge on whether privacy clause in the state constitution protects abortion rights.

Prescription drugs: (CS/SB 1550): Requires accountability among pharmacy benefit managers, creates transparency in prescription price increases and appoints a contact for consumer complaints involving pharmacy benefit managers.

Nursing home aids (SB 558): Permits certified nursing assistants to become trained as “qualified medication aides,” allowing them administer certain medications to nursing home residents under nurse supervision.

KidCare expansion (HB 121): Increases Florida KidCare subsidized health insurance coverage to families with incomes up to threshold to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $90,000 for a family of four.

Sickle cell (HB 1481): Requires the state Department of Health to establish and maintain a sickle cell registry and require certain providers to notify physicians of newborns and infants of certain screening results relating to sickle cell hemoglobin variants.

Menstrual products in schools (CS/HB 389): Ensures the availability of tampons and sanitary napkins for public school students at no charge.

Fentanyl penalties (CS/HC 1359): Stiffens criminal penalties for people who sell or traffic fentanyl (or similar controlled substances) that looks like candy, food, cereal, gummies, gum, etc., or sells to a minor.

Hemp regulations (SB 1676): Implements child safety rules for the marketing of hemp products. Includes punishments for “mislabeling” or creating packages that are “attractive” to anyone under 21.

Hospital violence (HB 825): Increases criminal penalties for assault or battery of hospital personnel.

Immigration (SB 1718): Sweeping immigration bill includes provision that requires hospitals that accept Medicaid to ask on admission forms whether patients are U.S. citizens and lawfully in the country. Form also informs patients that answers do not affect care or result in a report to immigration authorities.

Tax exemptions: (HB 7063): Revises provisions related to taxation including exemptions on baby diapers and adult incontinence products.

Pandemic discrimination (CS/SB 252): Bars businesses and governmental entities from denying services to people who refuse to wear masks or take COVID-19 tests. Prohibits firing or refusing to hire people based on “postinfection recovery status or the person's failure to take a COVID-19 test.”

Kratom regulations (CS/HB 179):  Sets age limit to purchase and consume kratom at 21 years old.

Marijuana renewals (CS/HB 387): Allows qualified physicians to perform patient examinations and evaluations through telehealth for renewals of certifications for medical marijuana under certain circumstances. Authorizes more licenses for farmers to enter the cannabis industry.

Student IEPs (CS/HB 19): Allows parents of minors with disabilities to stay involved in their child’s individual education plan until age 22.

Defining physician (CS/SB 230): Applies the title or designation "physician" only to medical doctors and osteopathic physicians for advertisements or when dealing with patients.

Provider accountability (HB 1471): Defines standards of care for surgeons performing gluteal fat grafting procedures (aka Brazilian butt lifts), including mandating a one-to-one ratio of physician to patient. Also, establishes extensive list of nursing home resident rights, including civil and religious liberties, refusal of medications and treatments, and freedom from sexual abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Medical conscience (CS/SB 1580): Gives health care providers the right to opt out of certain services based on a “conscience-based objection.”

Department of Health: (CS/CS HB 1387): Prohibits gain-of-function research in the state. Also, prohibits medical marijuana treatment centers from advertising or producing products that are attractive to children or that promote recreational use. Also, revises background screening requirements for medical marijuana treatment centers and certified medical marijuana testing laboratories.

Telehealth (HB 267): Revises the legal definition of “telehealth” to include the use of audio-only telephone calls.

Mammography reports (SB 614): Extends a requirement for a facility that performs a mammography to provide a summary report to the patient.

Information from AP, News Service of Florida, WUSF and WFSU was used in this report.

I’m the online producer for Health News Florida, a collaboration of public radio stations and NPR that delivers news about health care issues.