5 Things Florida: Health in the budget, Q&A w/ Andrew Behrman, Price transparency

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season filled with laughter, relaxation, and good company.

In this edition of “5 Things We’re Watching,” we feature some of the conversations taking place ahead of the 2022 legislative session, which begins next week. We have a breakdown of health funding in the governor’s budget proposal, a look at health policy teed up for session, and a conversation about policies to support the health care workforce.

Emily Boerger
State of Reform

 

1. Health highlights in the governor’s budget

Gov. DeSantis’s budget recommendations include $36.8 billion for the Agency for Health Care Administration and $3.2 billion for the Dept. of Health—both slightly above what the agencies asked for in their FY2022 budget requests. In this piece, State of Reform Reporter Nicole Pasia breaks down the health-related funding in the budget proposal including the over $200 million in funds allocated to direct care worker pay raises.

The governor’s budget proposal allocates $140 million for mental health initiatives in K-12 schools and includes $188.6 million in behavioral health initiatives for Floridians. It also includes $65 million in general funds and $101.2 million in Medical Care Trust Funds to AHCA to provide rate increases for nursing homes, Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities, and other assisted living providers.

 

2. Health policy we’re watching

With just a few days left before the start of the 2022 legislative session, lawmakers have now introduced close to 3,000 bills. From prescription drug transparency to addressing poor maternal health outcomes, here are some of the bills we’ll have our eye on once session starts.

The bills include HB 693, which directs the DOH to provide outreach to certain at-risk pregnant women, and HB 657, which expands eligibility for the Medical Education Reimbursement and Loan Repayment Program. We’re also watching HB 855/SB1258, which aim to increase transparency and improve data collection within the Medicaid program. These bills were all referred to their respective health committees last month.


3. Applications open for HCBS funding

Eligible home and community-based services (HCBS) providers are one step closer to receiving some of the millions of dollars outlined in the state’s enhanced funding plan. AHCA opened applications for provider funding last month, allowing a 60-day submission period before the Feb. 14, 2022 due date. Payments will come in the form of one-time stipends for HCBS providers, one-time payments to support HCBS staff recruitment and retainment efforts, and funds to purchase delayed egress systems for group homes and adult day training centers.

This first round of funding accounts for the bulk of the original $1.1 billion spending plan AHCA submitted to CMS in July 2021. Applications for funding directed toward other HCBS program components will become available in April 2022, according to AHCA.

 

4. Q&A: FACHC CEO Andrew Behrman

Andrew Behrman is the president and CEO of the Florida Association of Community Health Centers (FACHC), which provides resources such as COVID-19 testing and vaccinations through hundreds of FQHCs across Florida. In this Q&A, Behrman discusses the Omicron variant’s impact on the FACHC network and the policy solutions he’s looking at to secure access to care for Florida’s vulnerable communities.

Behrman says staffing is a significant challenge for FQHCs, but he is optimistic that the legislature will focus on the issue heading into session. He says the association has also hired a full-time workforce development director to look at approaches to supporting the workforce. “I’m talking about much more aggressive approaches to workforce development [such as] grow-your-own models, [and building] academic health centers within the FQHCs.”

 

5. The status of federal price transparency requirements

On January 1, the No Surprises Act went into effect, putting in place patient protections against surprise medical bills. But that’s just one of several efforts to improve price transparency that are currently underway at the federal level. State of Reform Columnist Jim Capretta offers a status update and a detailed look at some of those other efforts including the hospital price transparency rule and new regulatory requirements on insurers.

To improve compliance with the Hospital Disclosure Rule—which requires hospitals to post certain service prices online in a readable format—the Biden administration finalized a rule change that will increase maximum penalties to nearly $2 million per year beginning in 2022. Though some requirements have been delayed, new regulatory rules will soon go into effect requiring insurers to maintain a consumer pricing tool and to “post online for public consumption their in-network prices, their out-of-network allowed charges, and their negotiated prices for prescription drugs.”