Key senators said Tuesday they are moving closer to agreement with the House on a plan to bolster the use of telemedicine --- or, as lawmakers call it, "telehealth."
The Senate Health Policy Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a telemedicine bill (SB 478) that included changes intended to bring the Senate and House versions closer together.
Telemedicine involves doctors and other health-care professionals using the Internet and other technology to provide care to patients remotely. While some providers such as hospitals have already started moving forward with telemedicine, lawmakers say they need to approve a legal framework for its wider use.
The House and Senate proposed far-different bills last year and could not reach agreement.
"This is our year,'' said Senate Health Policy Chairman Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican who is sponsoring the Senate bill with Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. "This is the year that we get this done."
The changes approved Tuesday touched on a variety of issues, including the Senate committee going along with the House's "telehealth" label. As another example of the changes, senators eliminated part of their initial proposal that would have given authority to medical boards to adopt rules to carry out the law.
Panel Backs Continued Regulation of Pain Clinics
A Senate committee Tuesday approved keeping in place regulations that supporters say have helped curb Florida's reputation as a "pill mill."
Lawmakers in 2011 passed a wide-ranging law that included regulations on pain-management clinics, which were partially blamed for making Florida a magnet for prescription-drug abusers and traffickers. But those regulations are set to expire Jan. 1, unless lawmakers approve extending them.
The Senate Health Policy Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved an extension (SB 450), sponsored by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers. Attorney General Pam Bondi, who played a key role in passing the 2011 law, issued a statement praising the committee vote.
"These regulations must be kept in place,'' Bondi said. "Although overdose deaths have dropped dramatically in Florida, prescription drug abuse remains a major problem not only for our state but for the entire country."