2016 Legislative Updates

Week 8 Legislative Report
by Christopher L. Nuland, Esq.
Lobbyist and General Counsel

With only one week left in the 2016 Legislative Session, considerable progress was made on a bevy of issues, not the least of which was the budget.  Conferences have ended, and it appears very likely that the final budget deal will be on the legislators’ desks by Tuesday, which will allow for an on-time “sine die” next Friday.

The House has effectively closed debate on its bills, as this week it sent to the Senate bills on Balance Billing, Direct Primary Care, PA and ARNP prescribing, the Department of Health package, Transparency in Health Care Pricing, and Telehealth.  The House also gave final package to the long-delayed Needle-Exchange bill and a Medical Assistant Certification Bill.  As important as what the House passed, however, was what it did not, as its bills did NOT include independent practice for physician extenders or elimination of Open Heart standards, both of which had been proposed at the beginning of the Session.
The Senate has begun its deliberations on these issues and is likely to make adjustments in the coming days, at which time that chamber will either agree with the House, amend the House bills, or reject House ideas entirely.  This obviously will involve a significant amount of back-room dealings, but we look forward to being part of those discussions in the coming days.

Regardless of how the Session ends up, now is a time to thank everybody who has helped this Session.  We have done some great work, but we look forward to even better results over the next week.


Week 6 Legislative Report

by Christopher L. Nuland, Esq.
Lobbyist and General Counsel
With only two weeks left in the 2016 Legislative Session, action was fast and furious this week, with legislators and lobbyists scurrying to find “vehicles” on which to attach their legislative priorities and to position bills for final passage.
The most frantic action was in Thursday’s all-day Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, the last stop for most Senate bills before heading to the full floor.  In the course of the day, a bill designed to allow 24 hour ASC operation was amended to severely restrict such operation, but also to include Direct Primary Care and significant managed care reforms.  Also passing this committee were allowances for ARNP and PA controlled substance prescribing, as well as prohibitions on balance billing in an emergency setting.
Two bills regarding health care technology also passed the Committee, one requiring hospitals and providers to provide transparency of their pricing and the other allowing telemedicine (but only for Florida licensed professionals).
At this point, the issues are teed up for final actions on the House and Senate Floor, and we look forward to actually passing some meaningful legislation over the next two weeks.

Week 4 Legislative Report

by Christopher L. Nuland, Esq.
Lobbyist and General Counsel
As we approach the halfway point of the 2016 Legislative Session and the impending end of committee meetings, it is becoming increasingly clear which issues are likely to remain viable in the Session’s final weeks.
For instance, it now appears likely that Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants will be allowed to prescribe controlled substances, albeit with restrictions and without independent practice. Prohibitions on balance billing emergency room patients will remain a hot issue, although the parties have been feverishly attempting to hammer out a compromise over the past week.  Finally, it is apparent that the House of Representatives once again will pass legislation eliminating Certificate of Need Programs, while the Senate ponders less drastic legislation on this subject.
Also on our advocacy agenda this week was a two day Board of Medicine meeting at which we defended criticisms of the Office Surgery Rule.  After spirited debate, the Surgical Care Committee conceded that enforcement of the existing rule may need to be strengthened, but that the Rule itself was appropriately drafted to ensure that physicians only performed those procedures for which they are qualified.

Week Two Legislative Report

January 21, 2016

The second week of the 2016 Legislative Session maintained the frenetic pace of the first, as both the House and Senate continued to move forward several pieces of significant health care legislation.

On Tuesday the House and Insurance and Banking Committee refused to yield to strong Medicine opposition to HB 221, which would prohibit balance billing by non-contracted providers in the emergency room.  While we agreed with the stated goal of preventing the emergency room patient from being “price gouged,” we continue to insist that the physicians be fairly compensated for their services.  Reports are that the House leadership understands the flaws in the current bill and will be offering an amendment next week. 

The controversy in the House was immediately followed by the Senate Health Policy Committee voting to strip SB 212 of the controversial Recovery Care Center language, leaving a bill that would still allow Florida ASCs to keep patients after midnight.  It should be noted that the House Health and Human Services Committee today voted to keep the RCC language in its bill (HB 85), making this an issue that likely will not be resolved until late in the Session.

In other news, Medicine scored a major victory when the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee voted in favor of SB 1084, the Right Medicine, Right Time Act.  Also moving were compromise bills that would allow ARNPs and Physician Assistants to prescribe controlled substances in certain circumstances, while not granting such providers independent practice.