Live Healthy bills, hundreds of millions in Medicaid rate increases, pass the Legislature
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Rep. Mike Beltran cast the lone 'no' vote in the House Thursday.

The Legislature is sending to Gov. Ron DeSantis a sweeping health care bill that directs $717 million to help boost the numbers of doctors and nurses in the state and fortify hospitals, while passing another bill that annually directs for the next decade $50 million in state funds for health care innovation grants.

The bills (SB 7016, SB 7018) are a top priority of Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, who spent the interim between the 2023 and 2024 Sessions working on a proposal to bolster the state’s health care workforce.

The Senate had previously passed the bills unanimously. The House gave passed the bill by a 117-1 vote. Rep. Mike Beltran cast the lone “no” vote.

The vote came shortly after the Senate voted in favor of legislation dealing with social media, a top priority of House Speaker Paul Renner.

“The Senate and House have been huge advocates for prioritizing healthcare this legislative Session and we applaud their decision to pass a budget that reflects just that,”  Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida CEO Justin Senior said. “The proposal is going to go a long way in providing quality care for moms and babies in the state as well as make a notable trajectory shift in the staffing shortage we are seeing.”

Florida Hospital Association (FHA) President and CEO Mary Mayhew thanked Passidomo, Renner and the House and Senate bill sponsors for “supporting the health and well-being of Floridians, and the hospitals that contribute so much to that end.”

“Florida families rely on our hospitals for important health care services — from welcoming new babies to providing life-saving treatments and compassionate end-of-life care,” Mayhew said. “The FHA is grateful to work alongside remarkable hospital leaders and dedicated elected officials to deliver a modern, sophisticated health care system for our residents and visitors.”

Mayhew noted that the FHA had advocated for several proposals that were ultimately included in 7016, such as:

— $134.6 million to enhance hospital Medicaid reimbursement rates to support moms and babies during labor and delivery.

— $5 million for LINE and PIPELINE programs to strengthen health care workforce development partnerships and create a robust pipeline of skilled health care professionals.

—$50 million for graduate medical education to expand Slots for Doctors, creating 500 new residency slots to address workforce shortages.

“As Florida’s population continues to grow rapidly, this legislative package addresses prevalent health care challenges in Florida and strengthens the ability of hospitals to provide exceptional care by growing the health care workforce, advancing health care innovation and technology, and supporting integrated behavioral health care,” said FHA Board of Trustees Chair and CEO of Mount Sinai Medical Center, Gino Santorio.

In addition to boosting spending, Live Healthy makes health care policy changes. For instance, the bill authorizes the Agency for Health Care Administration to seek Medicaid reimbursement toward “Hospital at Home” services, which currently is covered by Medicare. That also is a move the FHA supports.

But hospitals were not supportive of a provision in the bill that authorizes advanced birthing centers (ABCs). The ABCs will be able to perform surgery such as cesarean sections.

Florida Behavioral Health Association President and CEO Melanie Brown-Woofter said SB 7016 is a “game changer” for behavioral health in Florida.

The bill allows psychologists and psychiatric advanced practice registered nurses to “practice to the fullest extent of their education in an in-patient setting,” she said, adding that the proposal also includes the availability of clinical opportunities for behavioral health students through the Training, Education, and Clinicals in Health (TEACH) Funding Program.

“These changes will allow our members to recruit and retain the most qualified mental health and substance use treatment professionals, ultimately improving the overall well-being of Florida’s most vulnerable population,” she said.

In addition, SB 7016 also enhances statewide coverage by Mobile Response Teams (MRT), which provide 24/7 emergency behavioral health care to anyone in the state of Florida.

“Enhancing coverage for MRTs is incredibly important as 82% of MRTs face-to-face responses resulted in community stabilization rather than involuntary admission to a Baker Act facility,” Brown-Woofter said. “FBHA is beyond thankful to the Florida Legislature for giving behavioral health providers the tools and resources they need to treat those who need help in a timely and effective manner.”

Florida Association of Managing Entities CEO Natalie K. Kelly said the Legislature showed “tremendous dedication” in its commitment to improving Floridians’ access to behavioral health services.

“By enhancing the delivery of these services, Floridians can utilize the resources they need to lead healthier and more productive lives,” she said.

Seven managing entities in Florida work with 300 behavioral health care providers that deliver services to over 2 million people including children, expectant mothers, veterans and the chronically homeless.

While Passidomo is being lauded for the proposal the Senate President did not include as part of her Live Healthy Plan a Medicaid expansion for childless adults as allowable under the federal health care law commonly called Obamacare.

During her 2024 Session Opening Day remarks, Passidomo championed her Live Healthy proposal and also made clear that Medicaid expansion would not be part of her agenda.

“I understand the arguments both for and against. We’ve had the debate several times over the last decade. Medicaid expansion is not going to happen in Florida. It is not a quick fix. It is not a panacea. In fact, if you cannot actually schedule an appointment with a health care provider, Medicaid expansion is nothing more than a false government promise,” Passidomo said in her Opening Day remarks.

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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