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Bill to Close Clinic Loophole at Risk

A bill that would close a loophole for cash-only clinics has drawn strong support from  three committees in the Florida Senate. Yet it’s dying in the House for lack of a committee hearing, like a plant without sunshine.

It is unclear why House health committees never got around to hearing the bill.  One factor could be that the committee chairs are all Republicans from upstate and the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Elaine Schwartz, is a Democrat from Broward. And she's not just any Democrat; she has loudly criticized House Republican leaders for failing to expand Medicaid to cover the low-income uninsured.

“I’m calling in every chit I have,” Schwartz said Monday, acknowledging it might not be enough. This is the last week for most committees to meet; House Health Appropriations  held its last meeting on Tuesday.

Meanwhile the story is very different in the other chamber. where the proposal (SB 746) by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, passed its third committee, Senate Community Affairs, on Tuesday by a 9-to-0 vote.

The only hope for the bill in the House may be to find a must-pass bill on which to amend it, legislative assistants said.

The dangers of Florida's unregulated cash-only clinics have made headlines far beyond this state. Last year, reports emerged that the BioGenesis clinic in Coral Gables had for years been supplying performance-enhancing drugs to Major League Baseball players as well as high school athletes and others.
 
A federal grand jury in Miami has for months been trying to determine the source of the drugs, which former clinic manager Tony Bosch claims he injected into Alex Rodriguez and other celebrity ballplayers. Bosch is not a licensed health professional.

As the New York Daily News reported last week, a Florida grand jury has issued subpoenas for drug-testing records and other documents from Major League Baseball.

A number of types of cash-only clinics have cropped up to offer diet drugs, “anti-aging”  hormones,  and other off-label treatments. Health News Florida profiled one in Boca Raton run by a health “coach,” who  diagnosed problems such as toxic metals or parasites and offered to sell supplements to cure them.

A number of other publications, most recently the Associated Press, have reported on the problem of unregulated clinics that exploit the loophole in Florida law.
 
Yet the House isn't moving to close it. There, the bill was assigned to the Health Innovations Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford. That committee hasn’t met since March 25.

Schwartz, the House sponsor, said when she talked to Brodeur about the bill, he said he didn’t like the last paragraph. She said she offered to remove it, but that didn’t do the trick.

The House Health & Human Services Committee, parent committee of Health Innovation, has one more meeting, scheduled for Thursday.