5 Things Florida: Q&A w/Rep. Duran, Health bills teed up for session, “Chronic COVID”

Later today, we hold our Convening Panel ahead of our 2021 Florida State of Reform Health Policy Conference. Our Convening Panel members will help think through and build our agenda for this year’s event. We’ll have more for you on this May 20th conference in the next week or so.

Our federal event is coming up in April however. Our 2021 State of Reform Federal Health Policy Conference will feature speakers from across the country and inside the beltway. Our Convening Panel for that event is a list of some of the smartest folks you’ll find in federal and state health policy. So, we’d love to have you join us at one or both of these unique convenings. I think you’ll find them well worth your time.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Rep. Duran says maintaining funding for Medicaid is critical

Democrat Rep. Nick Duran is the Ranking Member of the House Health & Human Services Committee and serves as executive director at Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinics. In this Q&A, Duran discusses legislation he is sponsoring this year, his hopes for the upcoming session, and the conversation around Medicaid expansion in the state.

Duran says it will be critical during session to protect funding for the safety net. “In times like these, we can’t be considering cuts to social service programs or Medicaid cuts. I think it’s going to be critical for us to ensure that those programs are funded and supported so that we can provide that kind of platform that allows families to dig themselves out of economic disasters that they have encountered.”


2. Health bills on the agenda for week 1 of session

Florida’s 2021 Legislative Session kicks off this week with meetings in both the House and Senate health committees. In the Senate, the Health Policy Committee will convene tomorrow to discuss SB 404, which would establish minority health liaisons in each county, and SB 74, related to COVID-19 liabilities. The Appropriations Subcommittee on Health & Human Services will also meet Wednesday to review a bill to create the rare disease advisory council, and SJR 340 which would require a supermajority vote to enact a single-payer health care system.

Today’s House Health & Human Services Committee agenda includes HB 241, the Parents’ Bill of Rights, and the Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee will discuss HB 7005, also related to civil liability for COVID-related claims against health care providers. These bills are among the many pieces of legislation we have covered in the weeks leading up to session.


3. Health reform in federal COVID bill

Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief package passed the House this weekend and now sits in the Senate. In his latest piece, State of Reform columnist Jim Capretta outlines the health measures in the bill that “will be significant for policy debates in the years ahead.”

Among the list of changes is an increase in premium tax credits for households receiving insurance through the ACA exchanges. The bill would fully subsidize coverage for households below 150% FPL, it would increase subsidies for those up to 400% FPL, and it would remove the 400% FPL cap, allowing any household to get coverage through the ACA exchanges with a premium of no more than 8.5% of annual income.

A recent analysis estimates that for an enrollee in Florida at 430% FPL, the expanded subsidies would decrease monthly premiums from $720 to $144 (lowest-cost bronze), $968 to $390 (benchmark silver), and $1,038 to $459 (lowest-cost gold).


4. Overdose deaths accelerate in Florida

Provisional data from the CDC shows overdose deaths in Florida have increased 37.5% in the past 12 months compared to the previous year. In the 12-month period ending July 2019, the state saw a reported 5,097 deaths. The following 12 months, ending in July 2020, saw a reported 7,008 deaths.

This acceleration in overdoses puts Florida 6th in the nation for percent increase, far higher than the 22.8% national average. Lawmakers have already filed a series of opioid-related legislation to be taken up this year in both the House and Senate including bills related to non-opioid alternativessubstance abuse prevention, and peer specialists.


5. Implications of “chronic COVID”

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Chris Murray, Executive Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations (IHME), where I learned something I didn’t know. Based on data from the Novavax COVID vaccine trial, being previously sick with COVID-19 appears to offer no protection from being infected with the new South African strain of the virus.

Without cross-variant immunity, Murray says this data indicates we may be moving to a “world of chronic COVID” where every winter we treat COVID as we do the flu. I outline three immediate things that may change for us in this column. Perhaps the most important is this: hospitals and their current financing models are in trouble. Video of my full conversation with Murray is available here.