Florida House passes healthcare reform package

by | Feb 23, 2024

The Florida House approved the “Live Healthy” legislative package on Thursday, aiming to reform healthcare by tackling workforce shortages and enhancing medical services.

The Florida House passed the “Live Healthy” legislative package on Thursday, signaling a major advancement in healthcare reform within the state.

Spearheaded by Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, the assemblage of bills seeks to address workforce shortages in the healthcare sector and improve overall healthcare services for Floridians.

The package primarily consists of two bills, SB 7016 and SB 7018, alongside ancillary measures, and includes provisions for Medicaid rate increases, graduate medical education funding, and a health care screening and service grant program. The Senate approved the bills in January with amendments that reduced the proposed spending by approximately $120 million.

The centerpiece, SB 7016, allocates $717 million towards enhancing the healthcare workforce. This includes $134.6 million to bolster hospital Medicaid reimbursement rates, $5 million for workforce development programs, and $50 million to expand medical residency slots. The measure also permits the authorization for Medicaid reimbursement for “Hospital at Home” services, extending care beyond traditional hospital settings.

SB 7018 complements the primary bill with a $50 million annual investment in health care innovation grants. This is aimed at fostering healthcare solutions and technologies, particularly in underserved areas.

“Thank you Speaker Paul Renner and the Florida House for your amazing teamwork on our comprehensive plan to grow Florida’s health care workforce, increase access and incentivize innovation,” Passidomo said following its passage.

The legislation has drawn criticism, however, for excluding Medicaid expansion for childless adults, a contentious issue in the state’s healthcare debate. In prior press conferences, Passidomo has firmly stated that Medicaid expansion is not part of the agenda, instead electing to focus on “actionable solutions” to enhance healthcare access and quality.

The framework further seeks to enhance Medicaid reimbursement rates for dental care, nursing services, and various forms of therapy. It also broadens the eligibility for the LINE program and establishes pathways for foreign-trained physicians to practice in Florida, thereby addressing a significant gap in the state’s medical workforce development.

Healthcare access for low-income Floridians additionally serves as a major component by raising the eligibility threshold for free and charitable clinics. The package also establishes a Health Screening and Practitioner Volunteer Portal to support non-profit health service providers.

The plan also proposes increased Medicaid reimbursements for maternal care during labor and delivery and allocates funds for Behavioral Health Family Navigators in specialty hospitals.

In a memorandum issued to lawmakers in November, Passidomo highlighted a shortfall in healthcare professionals, with an anticipated deficit of nearly 18,000 physicians by 2035. Per the memo, Florida’s projected healthcare workforce would meet just 77 percent of the state’s needs. The nursing sector faces a similar crisis, she wrote, with forecasts indicating a shortage of 37,400 registered nurses and 21,700 licensed practical nurses by the same year.

“[O]ur estimates suggest that over the next five years, our population will grow by almost 300,000 new residents per year,” she said. “While this growth will impact so many areas of public policy, my focus for the upcoming session will be on our health care system. Specifically, growing Florida’s health care workforce, increasing access, and incentivizing innovation, so Floridians can have more options and opportunities to live healthy.”


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