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Lawmakers Prepare For Familiar Health Battles

Wikimedia Commons

Health care has been a hot-button policy issue for years in the Florida Legislature, and it’s starting to look like the session scheduled to start on Jan. 12 will be no different.

Battles over Medicaid expansion and payments to hospitals treating low-income patients were so bitter in the spring, it brought the Legislature to a halt.

Lawmakers in Tallahassee already are planning to reintroduce several familiar topics for the 2016 session. Medical marijuana and Medicaid continue to be attention grabbers, as does hospital funding, the role of non-physicians and telemedicine.

  Health News Florida recently caught up with Tampa Bay Times health reporter Kathleen McGrory, who has been following the legislature the past four years in the Capital.

She said though bills on all these issues have failed in previous sessions, there’s no shortage of lawmakers wanting to try again. Here’s her take on some of the top issues:

Credit Mayo Clinic

  Telemedicine: “We saw the first telemedicine proposal surface, I think two years ago. And there seems to be pretty widespread agreement that yes, we need to do something that expands telemedicine in the state of Florida. There’s been a shortage of physicians for a while now, particularly in rural areas, and the legislature wants to make these services more accessible to those folks.”

“But where it’s really gotten tied up is in the technicalities of telemedicine. For example, should we let doctors from other states who may not have a license practice here in Florida, and what are going to be the ramifications for reimbursement.”

nurse checking patient's pulse.
Credit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  Scope of practice: “Even though there was some support for this idea of expanding the scope of practices for nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants in the Senate, it really didn’t get a fair shot given the 'chaos' of the session."

“I don’t necessarily think it’s a done deal. There are a lot of constituencies in Tallahassee. You’ve got the hospitals, you’ve got the doctors. There are a lot of people who are on the field.”

Hospital funding for low-income patients: “I don’t think (the fight) will be nearly as dramatic as it was last year…The state does need to address this issue because the bottom line is that these funds are going away. You’ve got big hospital systems like Jackson Hospital in Miami-Dade that does a lot of charity care and they do need to figure out how to be reimbursed for that.”

Mary Shedden reports for WUSF in Tampa. WUSF is part of Health News Florida, which receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.