After more than a decade writing and editing this newsletter, 5 Things We’re Watching, in a range of states like Florida, I’m passing the baton to our managing editor, Emily Boerger. She’s one of the best and brightest among a super smart team here at State of Reform.
I’ll have an occasional column, but Emily is more than cut out for the role. She’s put together so much of this month’s newsletter, so you can read the quality of her work below.
Thanks for letting us take up this space in your inbox, and for allowing us to inform your work to improve health care in Florida.
With help from Emily Boerger
1. Medicaid waitlist, nursing shortages among agency budget requests
The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee kicked off its first interim meeting late last month, reviewing budget requests from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), the Department of Elder Affairs, and the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. State of Reform Reporter Nicole Pasia has a rundown of the departments’ funding requests which cover a range of areas including workforce shortages, reducing waiting lists, and technology updates.
The Appropriations Subcommittee is set to meet again on Monday where they’ll discuss the budget requests for the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Department of Children and Families, and the Department of Health. You can find a preview of all agency budget requests here.
2. Health policy teed up for 2022
Florida lawmakers have already introduced over 320 bills ahead of the 2022 legislative session which is set to convene January 11. Among the list of health-related bills are policies related to abortion, COVID-19 restrictions, behavioral health, and telehealth.
The bills include: HB 167, which is similar to Texas’s recently enacted “heartbeat bill,” HB 75, which would ban mask mandates and vaccine requirements at the state, county, and municipal levels, and SB 282, which would revise licensure restrictions for certified recovery peer-specialists. Lawmakers also heard presentations on maternal health, disparities, and stigma during a recent House Professions and Public Health Subcommittee meeting which State of Reform covered here.
3. Q&A: Rep. Nicholas X. Duran
Representative Nicholas X. Duran is the Democratic Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee and a member of the House Health and Human Services Committee. In this Q&A, Duran offers his take on health care workforce challenges facing the state, the outlook for Medicaid, and mental health care access in Florida.
Duran also discusses House Bill 135, a bill he is co-sponsoring ahead of the 2022 session that would increase the income eligibility threshold for coverage under the Florida KidCare program. “I think that’s the kind of bill that creates that pathway to allow families to ensure their kids have access to health care, continue to have a relationship with a medical doctor, continue to make those appointments, and have access to medicines.”
4. The impact of Florida’s promotores
Robin Lewy at the Rural Women’s Health Project (RWHP) says promotores – or, community health workers who serve primarily Spanish-speaking communities – have been instrumental in providing culturally competent care and information during COVID-19. At the start of the pandemic, Lewy says information about masks, testing, and vaccines were rarely accessible in languages other than English.
In response, RWHP helped develop resources offering language-accessible information, while at the same time relied on promotores to disperse the information to the community more effectively. “It’s a combination of … trying to keep up with what’s emerging all the time through the CDC and our health departments, but also how it’s interpreted and what’s needed from the community.”
5. Uncertain outlook for Build Back Better Act
“Nothing about the Biden spending plan is certain, including its health provisions.” That’s according to State of Reform columnist Jim Capretta, who in his latest piece dives into the weeds of the health provisions up for discussion in the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act in Congress.
Capretta outlines the state of play for some of the most expensive items being hashed out by lawmakers including the national ACA reinsurance program, Biden’s proposed $400 billion ten-year expansion of Medicaid HCBS, and dental, vision, and hearing coverage for Medicare. Capretta says the fate of the bill is highly uncertain and could be decided in a few weeks. Or, he reasons, conversations may continue through the end of the year and potentially into 2022.