‘Live Healthy’ aims to increase access to care by bolstering workforce, innovation
Kathleen Passidomo. Image via Colin Hackley.

Medicaid expansion, medical malpractice liability and insurance are left out of Senate health care proposal.

The Senate is proposing to spend close to $1 billion on its sweeping “Live Healthy” initiative that aims to deal with a growing shortage of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.

Senate President and Naples Republican Kathleen Passidomo and other key Senators unveiled details of the initiative, which will include everything from regulations to health care pricing transparency to offering up forgivable loans to doctors and nurses who agree to do volunteer health services.

It does not, though, include expanding access to health care to working uninsured residents through a Medicaid expansion. Florida is one of 10 states not t o expand Medicaid under the federal health care law often referred to as “Obamacare.”

“Access to health care is important at every phase of life,” Passidomo said. “Insurance does not guarantee access, as even Floridians with great insurance face barriers to care. Live Healthy is a robust package of policy enhancements and strategic investments that will help make sure Florida’s health care workforce is growing at the same pace as the rest of our great state.”

The legislation — which will start with two bills, but is expected to include several more — will include money to expand medical residency slots as well as Medicaid rate reimbursement rates for those providing preventative care and serving vulnerable populations, including more than $150 million for increased payments to hospitals to support maternal care for moms and babies in labor and delivery.

Passidomo stressed that the bills up for consideration will not deal with medical malpractice liability, and she defended the decision to forgo Medicaid expansion by saying insurance doesn’t matter if there is no doctor available to provide treatment.

The proposal does, though, call for allowing more people to be able to use the free primary and urgent care clinics that local health departments often run. The Live Healthy initiative will propose increasing the eligibility threshold from 200% of the federal poverty limit to 300%, which translates to an income of $90,000 for a family of four.

Sen. Colleen Burton, chair of the Senate Health Policy Committee who is helping shepherd the initiative, contended that it would create “greater access for every Floridian whether they are insured or underinsured.”

But House Democratic Leader Fentrrice Driskell noted that a Medicaid expansion helps people who cannot afford health care, and said it’s a necessary part of any omnibus health care plan.

“Florida House Democrats believe that every Floridian deserves the freedom to be healthy, prosperous and safe. And that certainly includes the ability to have access to high-quality, affordable health care. And in Florida, that necessarily means Medicaid expansion. And so for my Republican colleagues to refer to it as simply a talking point that wouldn’t do anything is utterly unserious,” said Driskell, a Tampa Democrat.

“We know that Florida is one of only 10 states in this country that has refused to expand Medicaid access. And that has a real cost, not just monetary, but in terms of people’s lives. We want to talk about ‘Live Healthy,’ we need to make sure that people have access to health care.”

The Senate initiative would also create a 15-member Health Care Innovation Council and set up a revolving loan fund that would provide $75 million a year for the next 10 years to help pay for advances in technology and health care delivery models.

Some of the other components of the initiative include creating an advanced birth center designation to help spur the creation of places that handle low-risk deliveries.

The health care initiative is the primary focus for Passidomo in her final year as Senate President. But she stressed that she has been talking about the proposals for the last several months with House Speaker Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican, and that she included ideas to increase the number of mental health facilities after talking to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis rolled out his own $114.4 billion budget recommendations earlier his week. They did not include any money for the Senate health care initiative and did not include any additional funds to increase graduate medical education to produce more physicians. DeSantis’ staff said additional funding had not been included in his proposed budget because the Senate had not finalized the health care proposal when the Governor’s proposed budget was being drafted.

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.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn