House committee nearly derails Kathleen Passidomo’s health care priority
Kathleen Passidomo. Image via Colin Hackley.

Rep. Randy Fine was the Republican driving the opposition.

A top health care priority for Senate President Kathleen Passidomo nearly got derailed in the House, raising questions about its future.

One of the Republicans driving opposition to the legislation was House Health and Human Services Committee Chair Randy Fine, who ultimately voted against the measure (HB 583).

Filed by Rep. Ralph Massullo, the bill essentially bans anyone but medical doctors and osteopathic physicians from using the words “physician” in their advertisements and daily interactions with patients.

The House and Senate bills exempt some professions from the ban: chiropractic physicians, who are authorized in their practice act to identify themselves as chiropractic physician, as well as dentists and podiatrists, whose specialty recognitions and licenses can include the terms doctor, physician and surgeon.

The House bill also includes optometrists in the carve out, but the Senate bill (SB 230) does not.

How optometrists are treated — which harkens back to the so-called eyeball wars between optometrists and ophthalmologists — was the only substantive difference between the bills headed into the final meeting of the House Health and Human Services Committee meeting.

That’s when Fine threw his weight behind an effort by Democrat Rep. Marie Paule Woodson to amend HB 583 to allow acupuncturists to use the terms “acupuncture physician,” and “doctor of oriental medicine” if they are recognized by one of three national accrediting organizations.

Had it been adopted, the amendment would have broadened the differences between the bills.

Florida State Oriental Medicine Association lobbyist Corrine Mixon said the title “acupuncturist physicians” has been recognized since the 1980s, telling committee members it’s recognized in statute and administrative code.

She said there are acupuncturists today who are identifying themselves as physicians. Without the amendment, she said they would be forced to change their homepages and print advertisements by July 1.

“We do think that it is costly. We think the patients are safe using acupuncture. And we don’t think the profession has been misleading and that absolutely the board (of acupuncture) does a great job of stepping in if there’s a problem like there is in all professions,” Mixon told the committee.

“So we just wanted to bring that back and ask you to please continue this professional designation and not to kind of pick winners and losers within health care professions on this one.”

Massullo, a dermatologist, opposed the amendment, saying the bill is about transparency and that patients need to understand who is treating them.

“The purpose of this bill is so that we do not have confusion in the health care system on who doctors are,” he said in response.

“We don’t want individuals who have a Ph.D. in any field to be recognized as a medical doctor. And as we continue to expand scope (of practice), and as we continue to make the delivery of medicine more technologically advanced, we need to have those distinguishing titles. So people understand who is providing care.”

Fine, though, disagreed and said the bill is a “problem in search of a solution.”

He also told the committee that whether the amendment was adopted or not, he worried that in the end the chamber may not be voting on the House bill. Indeed, the Senate passed SB 238 March 15, and the bill has been waiting to be heard in the House since then.

Fine’s testimony helped sway three other Republicans on the committee to vote in favor of the amendment. But the amendment ultimately died on a tie vote after Rep. Kelly Skidmore, a Democrat, broke rank with the other Democrats and voted against it.

Prior to the final vote on the bill, Skidmore publicly apologized to Rep. Woodson for not supporting her amendment.

“It’s consistent with who I am and how I have approached medical scope legislation for many, many, many years. And while the amendment may have failed, I think that it did prove to this body and the sponsor that there is room for improvement and there is room for negotiating, maybe an outcome that everyone can agree with,” Skidmore said.

In a day and time when legislative leadership appears more locked down than ever, Fine, who has routinely limited public testimony on controversial bills on abortion and transgender care, ended debate on the bill by encouraging members to vote their conscience. 

“Most of the bills in this process are jump balls. Just because a bill is on an agenda it doesn’t mean you have to always vote for that. It was like that when I was a freshman. It unfortunately is not like that anymore. And the best discussions we have are when people come in and they fight in the arena of ideas and let the best ideas win. And so you can see what happens when that happened today,” Fine said.

“Who knows what happens to this bill in the end? But I am sure that Chair Massullo will think about that vote when he takes the bill forward.”

Christine Jordan Sexton

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


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