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2019 Session Opening Day: José Oliva stakes his claim on health care

“Great clouds have formed above us now.”

House Speaker José Oliva told members on the first day of the 2019 Legislative Session that health care was the “greatest financial threat” facing Floridians.

Oliva spoke in the first House sitting of the Session before Gov. Ron DeSantis delivered his State of the State address.

Saying “great clouds have formed above us now,” he called out pharmaceutical companies for “gouging Floridians for their medications, often 10 times what the rest of the world pays, sometimes more.”

“Floridians are depending on us to remedy this crisis,” Oliva said, according to his prepared remarks. “That is why this year we will pass comprehensive healthcare reform. No single policy will be the solution. A truly comprehensive approach is what is required.”

He also called for an end to the state’s certificate of need program, which regulated what kind of expansion hospitals and other health care companies can pursue.

The process requires hospitals to show state regulators there’s a need in the community before they can build a new facility or expand an existing one. It also has applied to adding specialty treatment programs, such as organ transplants. But it’s often pitted competing hospital interests against each other in the same community.

Oliva said it has “led to local and regional monopolies, stifled competition and led to skyrocketing prices.”

He also supported telemedicine, in which doctors use online technology to evaluate patients. 

Critics have raised concerns about allowing doctors to treat patients, including prescribing medication, who they can’t see up close and in person. Proponents counter that it opens up care to Floridians in rural areas and to those unable to get to a doctor’s office.

He also brought up higher education reform and the need to craft a responsible 2019-20 budget while allowing funds for hurricane recovery to those who need it most.

“This is all within our authority,” Oliva said. “Is it within our courage?”

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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