Gov. DeSantis signs into law extended COVID-19 protections for health care providers

Health care workers will be protected from COVID-19 lawsuits until June 1, 2023.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed into law nine bills, including a highly sought-after bill that extends protections from COVID-19 liability lawsuits for nursing homes, hospitals, and doctors.

SB 7014 was passed earlier this month with many Democrats voting against the measure.

The current law that shields businesses and health care providers from COVID-19-related lawsuits was one of the first measures passed by the Legislature during the 2021 Session. The law makes clear that to successfully sue a health care provider regarding COVID-19, the plaintiff must prove gross negligence or intentional misconduct.

While general businesses were provided indefinite immunity liability protections, health care providers were afforded such protection only through March 2022. The bill signed by DeSantis extends protections for health care providers until June 1, 2023.

The bill is a tacit acknowledgment that the COVID-19 pandemic remains an ongoing concern even as legislators and DeSantis have pushed laws and policies designed to keep businesses and local governments from imposing mandates and lockdowns.

The extension of liability protections included in the bill mirrors the same expiration date included in other recently enacted laws relating to COVID-19.

Florida Health Care Association said in a Twitter post that the protections “ensure our (long term care) centers have the resources needed to provide high-quality care during difficult times.” The FHCA is a statewide association that represents mostly for-profit nursing homes.

Jacksonville health care attorney and lobbyist Chris Nuland said physicians were hopeful the 2021 bill, which provided legal protections through March 29, would be enough.

“We had hoped that it would not be necessary, but COVID had other plans,” Nuland said.

Florida Justice Reform Institute President William Large focuses his efforts exclusively on tort-related issues. Like Nuland, Large said DeSantis deserves credit for providing the additional protections.

“The Governor should be commended for his bold leadership in continuing to protect our heroic health care providers throughout the COVID pandemic from unwarranted lawsuits,” Large told Florida Politics Thursday night.

Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson issued a statement thanking Legislative leadership and the Governor for extending the liability protections. Wilson said that Florida “has more billboard trial lawyer ads than any nation on the planet and this important protection for our health care workers is vital.”

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workersโ€™ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.

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