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Package to increase health care access gets unanimous approval in Florida Senate

Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, opens a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives for Gov. Ron DeSantis to give his State of the State address in Tallahassee, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)
Gary McCullough
The Live Healthy package was a priority for Senate President Kathleen Passidomo.

The state will seek to streamline regulations and offer incentives to help make care more accessible under two bills passed by the Senate. The Live Healthy package heads next to the House.

Two bills to grow the state’s health care workforce unanimously passed the full Florida Senate on Thursday. The Live Healthy package is heading next to the Florida House.

The package was a priority for Senate President Kathleen Passidomo.

The bills would make it easier for foreign doctors and out-of-state health care workers to relocate to Florida and would create loan programs and other incentives to attract health care providers to underserved rural areas. They also seek to reduce demand at emergency rooms by strengthening hospitals' partnerships with urgent care centers.

“We have 300,000 people every year moving to Florida — most of them are older. Everybody is going to need health care. We don’t have enough practitioners to serve the population we have now," Passidomo says. "We need to attract, I like the way they put it in the medical community — to grow — health care personnel.”

Lakeland Republican Sen. Colleen Burton, the Health Policy Committee chair, says her bill (SB 7016) helps to attract and keep more health care workers in the state.

“We anticipate thousands more. We need thousands more," Burton says.

The measure also increases residency slots and smooths the way for health care providers from out of the of the state and country to work in Florida.

The other measure(SB 7018) was proposed by Stuart Republican Sen. Gayle Harrell, the Health and Human Services Appropriations chair. who calls it a “game changer.” It provides funding for health care innovation projects, and Harrell says it partners with the goals in Burton’s bill.

“Whether it’s in technology, in workforce improvement in really changing how to deliver health care. And really utilizing all those talents through this endeavor and what it does, it’s really going to in the long run increase efficiency, improve outcomes and increase access — as we discussed in the previous bill — but also reduce the strain on the workforce — again what we discussed in the previous bill," Harrell says.

The bills head next to the House, where Passidomo says she is “in sync” with House Speaker Paul Renner. Renner spoke in support of Passidomo’s package during his Opening Day remarks.