Florida healthcare package awaits last step with governor

Florida lawmakers are nearing full passage of "Live Healthy," a package of healthcare bils debuted late last year designed to expand the healthcare workforce, address emergency room crowding, and create a loan program for healthcare innovators. 

The legislation, Senate Bill 7016 and Senate Bill 7018, passed on the Florida House floor Feb. 22 and now awaits the signature of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

SB 7016 pertains to the healthcare workforce and includes $717 million in spending for increased residency slots, expansion of loan-forgiveness programs for healthcare professionals, and revision of Florida's Areas of Critical Need Program to allow physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses to receive temporary certificates to practice in areas of critical need.

The legislation also contains a requirement that all hospitals with EDs — including hospital-based off-campus EDs — submit a plan to the state that details how they will help patients access the appropriate care setting if and when they present to the ED with a non-emergent condition or do not have regular access to primary care. 

The plans call for either a partnership agreement with one or more local federally qualified health centers or other primary care settings or the establishment, construction and operation of a hospital-owned urgent care center adjacent to the hospital ED location or an agreement with an urgent care center within a defined distance from the ED. 

SB 7018 pertains to healthcare innovation and includes the provision of $50 million per year for a loan program for healthcare innovation projects. 

The Florida Hospital Association has welcomed the legislation and applauded its passage through the state's Senate and House.

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