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Agenda: Telemedicine, Workforce

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

Efforts to expand who and how health care is provided remain hot topics for Florida business leaders and state legislative leaders.

Bills concerning telemedicine and the expansion of the state’s health care workforce stood front and center at the annual Florida Health Care Affordability Summit in Orlando. The event, sponsored by the Associated Industries of Florida Foundation, is proving to serve as a sort of legislative sneak peak concerning all things health care.

On Thursday, panels featured top Republican lawmakers, teamed with health care practitioners and business leaders, and discussed how telemedicine means far more than doctors doing consults via email and over the phone. Practitioners already are using computerized bathroom scales and cell phone videos to monitor patient health.

State Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, said the two-page “telehealth” bill he filed does not limit care to physicians. His sentiment that health care involves providers of varied levels of training was repeated over and over throughout the day.

A year ago, the health care summit felt more combative, as state lawmakers planned to debate a possible expansion of Florida's Medicaid program. In the end, the Senate passed an alternative plan in the 2013 session, but that proposal and others aimed at providing health coverage to the state’s uninsured were knocked down in the House.

Tom Feeney, chief executive officer for Associated Industries of Florida, said many businesses have spoken in favor of increasing access to the uninsured. But they realize the issue has little chance in the House, where Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, is the most vocal opponent to the expansion that would include $51 billion in federal funding.

Feeney, a former speaker of the Florida House, said the summit focused on discussing only issues that had a legitimate chance of being brought up in the legislative session that starts in March.

The summit wraps up later today. For a rundown of the events, follow Health News Florida on Twitter. (Editor Carol Gentry is @HNFEditor; and reporter Mary Shedden is @MaryShedden)

Mary Shedden is news director at WUSF.