Florida Lawmakers to Consider Massive Health Care Plan in Upcoming Legislative Session
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida lawmakers are gearing up to discuss a substantial health care plan as they convene for the legislative session next month. State Sen. President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, unveiled the comprehensive legislative package on Thursday morning, asserting that it will foster the growth of the health care workforce, enhance access to care, and encourage innovation.
The urgency for such a plan arises as approximately 1,000 people migrate to Florida each day. Supporters of the overhaul argue that the state’s health care industry is struggling to keep pace with this rising influx. “Everybody needs health care,” emphasized Passidomo. “In Florida today, we do not have enough health care personnel to take care of the Floridians that are living here.”
Dubbed the “Live Healthy” plan, the ideas span around eight pages and come with an estimated cost of $900 million for the initial year. The package includes several key provisions, such as the removal of barriers for foreign-trained doctors to practice in Florida, the relaxation of rules for out-of-state nurses and physician assistants to work in the Sunshine State, the expansion of telehealth and mental health care services, and the elevation of the poverty-level eligibility threshold (200-300%) for access to free and charitable clinics.
Sen. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland, attested to the robustness of the existing clinic system in Florida, stating, “What we know is we have a robust system of those clinics across the state of Florida. What it does is it opens up the clinics to more people.”
Initial feedback on the proposal from influential figures within the GOP supermajority has been largely positive. Florida’s House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, described the collaboration between the chambers as fruitful, emphasizing the potential benefits for the health care system as a whole. “There’s just a lot to like there. I think it’ll have a lot of bipartisan support,” Renner expressed.
However, Democrats have raised concerns over a significant omission in the package, namely the lack of Medicaid expansion. The Senate president dismissed this criticism as a mere “talking point,” emphasizing that the primary objective of the legislation is to ensure “quality, efficient, effective, and economical” care.
House Minority Leader Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, voiced her disappointment, stating, “You want to talk about Live Healthy? We need to make sure people have access to health care by expanding Medicaid. We would bring down another $4 billion in federal funds into Florida’s health care system.”
Driskell further highlighted that Florida is one of just ten states that have yet to approve a Medicaid expansion. She underscored the challenges faced by residents in terms of affordability and highlighted the missed opportunities that expansion could bring.
“Maternal health rates have improved,” Driskell emphasized. “It helps rural hospitals from having to close down. It helps prevent emergency room visits. I’m very disappointed to see that this act — the proposed Live Healthy Act doesn’t include anything on Medicaid expansion because Floridians need it.”
The next step in the process is the actual filing of the legislation. The complete package will require several bills, two of which are expected to be introduced on Friday and subsequently undergo committee discussions as early as next week.