New Florida law adds rules for ERs

A package of healthcare laws signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis March 21 contains new rules for hospital emergency departments.

Under the legislation, SB 7016, all hospitals with EDs — including hospital-based off-campus EDs — are required to 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 indicate throughout their episode of care that they do not have regular access to primary care. 

The Florida Senate's health policy committee said the measure "addresses the issue of persons who tend to utilize hospital emergency departments for nonemergent care or emergency care that could have been avoided with the regular provision of primary care." About 79% of Florida residents report having a personal physician or healthcare provider, according to 2022 CDC data.

Hospitals' nonemergency care access plans (NCAPs) cannot conflict with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act and must obtain state approval by July 1, 2025, for the hospitals to secure licensure or renewal. After approval, hospitals must annually submit data to the state demonstrating the effectiveness of their plan and update it as required by the state before license renewal.

Hospitals' NCAPs must also include at least one of the following measures: 

a. A partnership agreement with one or more local federally qualified health centers or other primary care settings. ED teams would then be responsible for "proactively seeking to establish a relationship between the patient and the federally qualified health center or other primary care setting so that the patient develops a medical home at such setting for nonemergent and preventive health care services" if the patient indicates that they lack regular primary care access. 

b. The establishment, construction and operation of a hospital-owned urgent care center within or adjacent to the hospital ED. "After the hospital conducts a medical screening examination, and if appropriate for the patient's needs, the hospital may seek to divert to the urgent care center a patient who presents at the emergency department needing nonemergent health care services," the legislation states. 

For patients enrolled in Medicaid, the hospital's ED diversion plan must include outreach to the patient's Medicaid managed care plan. 

The Florida Hospital Association applauded the governor’s signature on the legislation and package of healthcare laws, named Live Healthy with more than $700 million in funding.

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