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Week in Review | December 9-13, 2019

Florida House lawmakers have concluded their sixth and final week of committee meetings in Tallahassee where they heard presentations on issues affecting Floridians, debated solutions, and passed bills through their initial stops. Last week, committee meetings included discussions about how to improve health care, education, public safety, and more. Over the six-week interim period, nearly 100 policy bills were heard in the House of Representatives.

Lawmakers will return to the Capital City to kick off the 2020 Legislative Session on Jan. 14, 2020. The members of the Florida House of Representatives wish constituents a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year.

House Health Quality Subcommittee votes to break down health care barriers

Floridians in need of primary care are dealing with a lack of access to health care caused by a shortage of physicians. Florida House Health Quality Subcommittee members approved a bill on Wednesday to address this problem by freeing advanced practice registered nurses to help patients to the full extent of their education and training.

HB 607 allows advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants to work without physician supervision within their scopes of practice. Many experienced advanced practice nurses are “supervised” by physicians who never see the nurse’s patients, never review a chart, and never do a patient consultation. Yet, often, physicians charge these nurses money to sign their required supervision paperwork.

HB 607 brings Florida in line with 30 other states that already allow advanced practice registered nurses to practice independently. Treatment by an advanced practice registered nurse is just as safe as a treatment by a physician, and when nurse practitioners are not required to practice under physician supervision, health outcomes may improve.

House Health Market Reform Subcommittee votes to prevent anti-competitive practices

Hospital control of many health care providers in one area reduces competition and raises costs. That is why Florida House lawmakers on the Health Market Reform Subcommittee approved a measure on Wednesday that would monitor hospital mergers and acquisitions.

House Bill 711 requires the Attorney General’s Office to review hospital acquisitions of physician practices and other health care provider entities for anti-competitive behavior. Any hospital planning to acquire a physician practice must report it to the Attorney General at least 90 days prior to completion. The bill authorizes the Attorney General’s Anti-Trust division to look out for anti-competitive practices and act accordingly to prevent harmful monopolies.

On average, prices increase by 14.1% when a hospital acquires a physician’s practice. For specialty physician practice acquisitions, prices rise by 15% to 33.5%. This policy is the best solution to prevent monopolistic mergers and acquisitions leading to unfair, anti-competitive markets that increase health care costs and reduce access.

Intellectual diversity in higher education bill passes House subcommittee

State university and college students should feel free to express their viewpoints in a marketplace of diverse ideas. On Thursday, Florida House lawmakers on the Higher Education & Career Readiness Subcommittee voted to support this concept by approving HB 613.

HB 613, Higher Education, requires all state universities and colleges to survey students and faculty, and publish a report on the status of intellectual diversity at their institutions. The legislation also revises provisions related to performance funding, among other changes.

A study by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute found a dramatic leftward shift in the composition of faculty today with progressives at 60% and conservatives at only 13%. Given this dire lack of political diversity, conservative students may have real fears about expressing their opinions.

HB 613 reinforces the protections of the First Amendment by helping expose suppression of diverse speech and opinions at Florida’s higher education institutions.

Presentations highlight the societal costs of marijuana use

Marijuana legalization has serious public health and law enforcement impacts that require thoughtful consideration by state policymakers. That was the key takeaway from presentations to the House Health Quality Subcommittee on Wednesday.

All of the speakers highlighted the potential harms of legalizing marijuana. For example, a professor of public health and economics noted that 69% of marijuana dispensaries surveyed in Colorado recommended marijuana to pregnant women even though this is contrary to medical advice. Quest Diagnostics shared data that found positive drug test results for cannabis in the workplace rose faster in states with legalized recreational use. A Drug Enforcement Administration task force officer dispelled the notion that legalization reduces law enforcement costs as law enforcement agencies in Colorado have had to create dedicated teams to address marijuana issues.

The Florida House remains committed to understanding the societal costs of marijuana use when considering current and future policy options.

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