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Health News Florida

Senate Lets House Health Bills Die

Senate Health Policy Chairman Aaron Bean
Senate Health Policy Chairman Aaron Bean

Bills that involve state workers' health insurance, nurse-practitioners and hospital regulations died during this week's Legislative special session because the Senate has declined to consider them.

Senate Health Policy Chairman Aaron Bean said in a statement Monday evening that his colleagues felt there wasn't time to consider major policy changes by Friday, the last day of the special session called to finish work on a state budget.

The issues contained in the House bills require "a thorough and proper vetting," said Bean, R-Fernandina Beach.

Instead, he requested creation of a joint House and Senate task force on health care policy innovation to  take up the issues in committee meetings starting in September. They must be held earlier than usual because the 2016 legislative session will begin in January, rather than March.

Senate Health Policy Chairman Aaron Bean
Credit Florida Senate
Senate Health Policy Chairman Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli released a statement of his own: "While the Senate did not give our health care reforms a vote in committee or on the Senate floor, we understand that you cannot force another Chamber to take up legislation."

In the regular session, the House refused to take up the Senate's plan for expansion of health-care coverage to about 800,000 low-income Floridians.  It would have used Medicaid-expansion funds from the Affordable Care Act.

During the first week of the special session, the House defeated the plan 72 to 41 along party lines, with Democrats in support and all but four Republicans opposed. 

Senate President Andy Gardiner had left the decision on whether to take up bills other than the budget to  committee chairs. Bean held a workshop last week on five of the six House health bills; he canceled a committee meeting that was to have been held Tuesday.

The bills that died were:

-- HB 31A, which would have abolished the requirement for a state-issued “Certificate of Need” (CON) before a hospital is built or expanded, or adds any of several high-risk sophisticated services.

--HB 27A, which would have allowed advanced registered nurse practitioners and physicians' assistants to prescribe certain drugs that have extra controls because of their potential for addiction.

--HB 23A, which would have allowed outpatient surgery centers to keep patients in post-operative recovery longer and would have set up a new licensure category for "recovery centers."

--HB 25A, which would have set up a structure for doctors to contract directly with patients for payment rather than go through an insurer.

--HB 29A, which would have required hospitals to give notice to OB-GYNs before closing their obstetrical service.

A bill concerning another major issue, overhauling state workers' health insurance (HB 21A), was assigned to a different committee. No meeting was ever set.

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