House, Senate wrangle over Casey DeSantis Cancer Research Program
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 1/5/23-Rep. Sam Garrison, R-Fleming Island, chairs the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, Thursday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

The House is pushing to include Mayo Clinic in the cancer program, and the Senate wants to up the amount of money sent to UF Health.

As the Legislature continues to increase its funding commitment to cancer research, legislators are tussling over which academic centers could qualify and how much money those centers would receive.

Legislators could agree on a $27.5 million boost in recurring funds to the Casey DeSantis Cancer Research Program. House Speaker Paul Renner and Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Sam Garrison want to make sure Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center in Jacksonville can participate in the program and are pushing legislation (HB 5303) that makes the necessary statutory changes for that to occur.

Garrison said his goal is to increase the high level of National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer centers in the state which will increase the amount of federal funds flowing into Florida for cancer research and improve residents’ access to high-quality care.

“What the Speaker has said very clearly and what we have said throughout our time this Session is we want as many NCI (centers) in Florida and at the highest possible level. And I hope someday we have 40. That shows the research we are making is good and it’s working and it helps everybody. That’s how we are looking at it.”

Garrison also noted the House has offered to pump an additional $27.5 million in recurring general revenue into the program. “So even if you broaden the pool, nobody loses money,” if the Senate agrees to the move, Garrison said.

But the Senate has rejected the offer of additional money and the move to allow Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center to participate in the program. To date, only three Florida-based cancer centers have access to the money: the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Moffitt Cancer Center and UF Health Cancer Center.

In rejecting the House’s move, Sen. Gayle Harrell, Garrison’s counterpart in the Senate, countered with a proposal that would increase the amount of Casey DeSantis Cancer Research funding that goes to the UF Health Cancer Center. Her move is premised on an expected announcement that UF Health Cancer Center will be designated an NCI Center.

NCI is the federal government’s principal agency for cancer research and training. Based on the type and breadth of research conducted, the NCI awards one of three designations: comprehensive cancer centers, focused on substantial transdisciplinary research that bridges all cancer-related research areas; cancer centers, focused on one research area such as clinical, prevention, cancer control or population science research; or basic laboratory cancer centers, focused on laboratory research and work collaboratively with other institutions.

Mayo Clinic Cancer Center Jacksonville, Florida and Moffitt Cancer Center have been designated by NCI as comprehensive cancer centers. UM Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer is an NCI designated cancer center.

In an attempt to enhance the quality of cancer care in Florida, the Legislature in 2014 created the Florida Consortium of National Cancer Institute Centers Program. The Legislature in 2022 directed another $37 million to the program and renamed it the Casey DeSantis Cancer Research Program after the First Lady, who was successfully treated for breast cancer.

The intent was to help enhance the quality and competitiveness of cancer care in Florida; further a statewide biomedical research strategy directly responsive to the health needs of Florida’s citizens; and capitalize on potential educational opportunities available to students.

The amount of funding the centers can qualify for is based on their NCI designation level. There are three tranches. UF, which technically isn’t an NCI-designated cancer center, currently is in tier 3, the lowest tranche.

Harrell’s proposal would have moved UF from tier 3 to tier 2.

When asked why he rejected the move, Garrison said UF “has a different designation than Moffit, Sylvester or Mayo right now.” He also noted the designation wasn’t what he called “done done.”

The email notes the NCI designation will be made June 1. Looking at his watch, Garrison said “It’s only April 27.”

While the chambers have rejected each other’s proposals, there is a sign legislators are playing ball as they work to resolve other outstanding budget issues in time for lawmakers to adjourn on time.

The Senate on Thursday agreed to introduce three House budget conforming bills that have no Senate counterparts, one of which was HB 5303.

That bill eliminates the requirement that the academic cancer research centers be Florida-based. That opens the door for Mayo, which is based in Rochester, Minnesota.

The bill also makes permanent a policy made last year that carved out the $37 million in recurring funds from the distribution formula. That policy was included in an implementing bill that expires June 30, along with the budget. HB 5303 makes the policy permanent.

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.

One comment

  • Beth

    April 28, 2023 at 5:53 pm

    Why are taxpayers being forced to fund another one of Ronnie and Casey’s ‘fundraising “ schemes? They are starting to put Ivanka to shame. The greed and corruption of these people is sickening.

Comments are closed.


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