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Legislative Update

Insight 2nd quarter 2017
Legislative Report

Unfortunately for the poor, needy and underserved eye health care patients in Florida, HB 1037/ SB 1168 did not pass this session. However, it did not fail to pass due to lack of effort on the part of FOA or AOA or due to a lack of relevant testimony provided by our mutual members. AND it certainly did not fail to pass due to the vicious attacks and lies put forth against Florida Optometry by certain ophthalmologists or organized ophthalmology.

     Dr. Jasper has composed and released a list of the top 10 most inappropriate and vicious comments made against Florida Optometry last session along with the names of every individual supporting making these statements and the FSO members and PAC contributors behind these statements for your enlightenment. 

      It failed to pass due to factors that I am happy to sit down and share with you, in person, so that you may understand the real reasons HB 1037/ SB 1168 was denied victory. And please make no mistake, FOA intends to pass this legislation and overcome the obstacles that hindered our success this session. However, until we can speak in person, I want to provide you with a recap of the challenges every piece of legislation faced this session and thank all of you, the FOA Board and our FOA President, Dr. April Jasper, for persevering through this process.

Lastly, the Florida study on telemedicine should be completed soon.  As such, telemedicine in eye health care should be debated in the legislature next session. FOA is fully prepared to address patient safety and the provision of comprehensive eye health care through electronic communications as well as online refraction only services.

 

Sincerely,


Dr. Kenneth W. Lawson
FOA Legislative Chair

 

Legislative Recap - provided by Corcoran and Johnston Government

The 2017 Florida Legislative Session saw a record number of bills filed, with over 3052 pieces of legislation filed in both chambers. Due to conflict over the State’s budget and differing priorities between the House and the Senate, only 231 bills eventually passed both chambers.

Conflicting views led to a number of high-profile issues dying. In addition, disagreement over the budget delayed the budgeting process, and forced the legislature to extend session until May 8 in order to fulfill the mandatory 72-hour “cooling off period” before the budget can be voted on after it is printed and on the desk.

We have summarized the final status of each of the major issues from the 2017 Legislative Session.

 

State Budget

Florida’s Legislature is constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget and must do so prior to the start of the fiscal year, which is July 1st. The House and Senate proposed budgets were $4 billion apart at the beginning of budget negotiations, with the House including significant cuts to non-recurring “local funding projects” and disparities in funding allocations for House and Senate priorities. With the initial budget proposals so far apart, it took additional time for the House and Senate to agree on budget allocations, delaying the budget process altogether. The final state budget totals just over $82.9 billion, with major portions being dedicated to health care ($34.2 billion), pre-k-12 education ($15 billion), and transportation and economic development ($12.9 billion).

 

Workers’ Compensation

The Florida Supreme Court found multiple parts of the workers’ compensation law to be unconstitutional, including areas which address carrier paid injured worker attorney fees, time limits on temporary wage replacement benefits, and the right of an injured worker to pay for their own attorney. As a result, the Office of Insurance Regulation ordered a rate increase of 14.5 percent to be effective December 1, 2017. It also caused reform of Florida’s workers’ compensation law to be a major topic of debate throughout the 2017 Legislative Session. Entering the final week of session, the House and Senate remained far apart on their workers’ compensation bills. In the end, the bill died when the Senate refused to take up the amended House version late Friday evening.

 

Medical Marijuana

During the 2016 elections, Florida voters passed Amendment 2 with a 71 percent approval rate, expanding access to medical marijuana to additional patient populations and with less regulatory interference. Both the House and Senate each introduced their own bills addressing regulation of medical marijuana and implementation of Amendment 2, with the two main bills sponsored by House Majority Leader

Ray Rodrigues and Senator Rob Bradley. The House bill took a more conservative approach compared to the Senate bill, leading to difficulties in coming to a compromise and the bill’s eventual death at the end of session. 

 

Healthcare Reform

Several pieces of major healthcare reform legislation were filed during the 2017 Legislative Session. These include deregulation of Florida’s certificate of need (CON) program for hospitals, deregulation of the state’s trauma system, and allowing for 24-hour stays at ambulatory surgical centers. Legislation concerning all three issues passed the House in its entirety, but failed to make traction in the Senate. In fact, bills addressing deregulation of CON and trauma never received a single committee hearing in the Senate. Other points of contention included a nursing home carve-out for the Medicaid long-term care program, and several Florida Medical Association priorities, such as fail-first protocols, “bait and switch” for pharmaceuticals, and maintenance of certification. Additional health care packages, including the Agency for Healthcare Administration regulation bill, and legislation to reform the statewide Medicaid managed care program, also failed in the final days of the legislative session.

 

Medicaid Funding

There was significant uncertainty concerning hospital Medicaid funding entering the 2017 session. The Low Income Pool (LIP) provides supplemental funding to hospitals in order to make-up for losses attributed to providing charity care, including care for the uninsured and bad debt. Significant cuts to Medicaid funding were expected as a result of the uncertainty around the future of LIP. Late into the session, the federal government announced its approval of up to a $1.5 billion LIP pool, but the special terms and conditions associated with those funds are still being negotiated.

 

Gaming

Entering the 2017 Legislative Session, there was consensus between the House and Senate that gaming legislation was needed. Not only to renew a compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, but also to address gaming as a whole in the state, including referendums passed by several counties to allow for the expansion of slot facilities, and “decoupling” which would remove the requirement for casinos to operate in conjunction with live horse or dog racing. Acknowledging that the House and Senate bills were far apart from each other, the two chambers agreed to a Gaming Conference in order to work through the differences and come to an agreement on a final bill. In the end, negotiations ended up falling apart. 

 

Enterprise Florida / Visit Florida

Prior to the start of the 2017 Legislative Session, Governor Rick Scott let it be known his priority to secure over $100 million in funding for Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, two state run organizations tasked with marketing the state for the purpose of economic development. As budget negotiations came to a close, the Senate and House compromised on funding for the two organizations, including $25 million for

Visit Florida and a mere $16 million for Enterprise Florida, or just enough to sustain the entity’s operations. Governor Scott has made it known publicly, through the media and a series of town hall style meetings, his unhappiness with the legislature in not funding one of his biggest priorities.

 

 

 

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