Florida governor signs healthcare package

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a package of healthcare bills designed to grow the state's healthcare workforce, expand healthcare access and promote innovation in the industry.

The "Live Healthy" initiative, spearheaded by Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, passed on the Florida House floor in February and was signed by Mr. DeSantis on March 21.

"What they [state leaders] are tackling right now are some of the biggest challenges that we face in the Sunshine State, and that's access to health care in a reliable, reproducible, sustainable kind of a way," said Tampa General Hospital President and CEO John Couris, who attended the bill-signing event in Bonita Springs. "We're facing a myriad of challenges in the healthcare industry, in the healthcare system. There are critical shortages in the healthcare workforce. We've seen an exceptional growth in labor costs. Patients are struggling to access the care they need, and the demand for behavioral health services is at a record high."

Mr. DeSantis signed five bills March 21, including Senate Bill 7016. This bill includes $717 million in spending for increased residency slots; expansion of the Dental Student Loan Repayment and the Florida Reimbursement Assistance for Medical Education programs; and revision of the state's Areas of Critical Need Program to allow allopathic and osteopathic physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses to receive temporary certificates to practice in areas of critical need. It also has a requirement that all hospitals with emergency departments provide a non-emergent care access plan to state officials for helping a patient gain access to appropriate care settings "when the patient presents at a hospital emergency department with non-emergent healthcare needs or indicates when receiving a medical screening examination, triage or treatment at the hospital that he or she lacks regular access to primary care." 

The plans must include a collaborative partnership with at least one nearby federally qualified health center or other primary care setting and/or the establishment, construction and operation of a hospital-owned urgent care center co-located within or adjacent to the location of the hospital ED.  

Mr. DeSantis also signed Senate Bill 7018, which includes the provision of $50 million annually for a loan program for healthcare innovation projects. 

The other pieces of signed legislation are Senate Bill 330, which authorizes hospitals to apply for a behavioral health teaching hospital designation; Senate Bill 322, which provides an exemption from public records requirements for certain healthcare workers, and Senate Bill 1758; which revises provisions related to programs and services for individuals with disabilities.

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