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Health care, education among legislative actions this session

By Staff | May 16, 2019



As this year’s Florida Legislative session has come to an end, lawmakers have passed a series of bills pertaining to reformed healthcare and school choice.

“It is an exciting new day for the Members of the Florida Legislature and all those who call this state home. The passage of these bills have helped us reach our goal of offering Floridians greater access to affordable, quality healthcare. Through innovation, more competition and greater options in healthcare we have set a standard in this state and a precedent for other states. I am excited to see the progress made in the healthcare industry with the implementation of these bills,” said Health and Human Services Chair Ray Rodrigues, R-District 76.

Rodrigues said five major health care bills were passed in the Legislature this session.

The first, HB 19, allows the importation of prescription drugs from Canada. Up until this point, Floridians were allowed to only use domestically created drugs.

“This will cause Big Pharma in the U.S. to drive prices of prescription drugs down via competition. They will all have to be FDA approved,” said Majority Leader Dane Eagle, R- District 77, which includes Cape Coral.

Rodrigues said other states have already reached out to the Legislature for their language on the bill, as they hope to adopt similar practices.

“I’m not aware of any other state that is doing what we proposed in our bill,” Rodrigues added.

The second, HB 21, repeals the certificate of need for healthcare facilities, as the process of approval for these establishments will now become much easier.

More providers will drive down costs and make treatment more readily available to patients, officials said.

“People on the ground floor should be making the decisions on where we need hospitals and other healthcare facilities, not the government,” said Rodrigues.

The third, HB 23, allows for Telemedicine practices, so that patients can use the power of technology to stay in touch with their providers.

“Modern technology allows us to communicate with anywhere in the world. We can apply that to health appointments,” said Eagle.

In Florida, “snowbirds” may now be able to connect with their healthcare providers back home, instead of waiting at a facility to be seen with a doctor that may not be as familiar with an individual’s health history.

“You can sit in the comfort of your own home to have a consultation. It will also help drive down costs,” said Eagle.

The fourth authorizes Ambulatory Surgery Centers to hold patients for up to 24 hours. Previously, patients could only he help for a maximum of 12.

“This will also create more options for surgery services,” said Rodrigues.

The last will require anyone selling health insurance to offer a plan that include preexisting conditions.

“Should the Affordable Care Act be deemed unconstitutional, it will have no effect of Florida residents,” said Rodrigues.

The House also passed HB 7070, K-12 Education, that will increase “choice and opportunities available to all parents regarding their child’s education,” and HB 7030, “implementing the legislative recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.”

“Our goal has always been to create a safe and productive educational environment for all students, ensuring each has the opportunity to reach their full academic potential. At the end of the day, it is the parents who know what is best for their child in determining his or her education. They have no special or outside interests, no political gain to make, no motives other than providing the best education possible for their child. Similarly, it is the teachers who know what is best for the safety of his or her individual classroom. I am proud to say that we passed legislation empowering parents by giving them greater choices in their child’s education along with empowering teachers by giving them the choice to decide how they protect students in their classroom,” said Education Chair Jennifer Sullivan in a statement.

HB 7070 will allow parents to seek private educational choice options.

HB 7030 require county sheriffs to establish a school guardian program, require the Office of Safe Schools to annually provide training for specified personnel and require school boards and school district superintendents to partner with security agencies to establish or assign safe-school officers.

“This has been an historic year for the Florida House,” said Eagle. “We kept our promise to cut taxes for our citizens and increase accountability and transparency for our elected officials at every level. We met the Governor’s challenge to protect the environment. And we enacted precedent-setting school choice legislation. I am proud of the work we accomplished and am excited to see the positive impact these policy measures will have on our great state.”

Each of the bills is awaiting action by the Governor’s Office. Gov. Ron DeSantis can sign, veto or allow the legislative to become law without signature.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj