As week five of the 2022 Legislative Session comes to a close, Florida lawmakers have made progress on bills that would expand access to health care by removing or adjusting certain restrictions for providers or other entities.
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S.B. 1144 allows emergency medical technician (EMT) and paramedic entities to provide advanced life support services, such as endotracheal intubation or cardiac defibrillation, without first obtaining a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (COPCN).
Under current Florida Statutes, an entity that would perform non-transport emergency health services must obtain a COPCN from each county in which it plans to operate. Certain COPCN exemptions already exist, such as for non-profit organizations. Additionally, former Surgeon General Scott Rivkees suspended COPCN requirements for over a year with an emergency order. The suspension remained in place until the end of the state public health emergency on June 26, 2021.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jason Brodeur (R – Seminole), vice chair of the Senate Committee on Health Policy (HP), would allow the DOH to provide a license for these entities without a COPCN, so long as the EMTs or paramedics operate under required safety measures, such as under the direction of a physician or other licensed medical director.
“The goal of this bill is to save lives,” Brodeur said. The bill unanimously passed the committee on Wednesday.
Another of Brodeur’s bills, S.B. 842, would amend Florida’s non-compete contracts between a physician and a hospital. Specifically, the bill would require a buy-out option for a physician in a restrictive employment agreement. According to Brodeur, some agreements prohibit physicians from practicing in certain jurisdictions or transferring over patients from their previous employment.
“This [bill] will force open negotiations to say [the physician] should be able to, or at least have an option, to buy out of whatever restrictive covenant the hospital wants to put [them] under,” he said.
At the bill’s hearing last week, Sen. Janet Cruz (D – Hillsborough) was concerned about the lack of guidelines for such negotiations, which would be left up to the individual hospitals or hospital systems. Brodeur countered that even though the legislation would not include a fair market price for a buy-out negotiation, the bill is still “a step forward,” as there are currently no buy-out options available to physicians. The bill passed the HP committee by a 10-7 vote and now sits in the Rules committee.
To augment a shortage of lab technicians across the state, Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez (R – Miami Dade) presented S.B. 1374. The bill would allow certain medical personnel, such as registered nurses, to perform lab testing at alternate sites, such as a hospital or off-campus emergency department.
“There’s simply not enough available lab clinicians on a permanent or temporary basis available to conduct the necessary lab testing,” Rodriguez said. “This is something within the scope of practice of a registered nurse. We would like to help address that shortage.”
The bill would exempt nurses from taking certification exams under the Board of Clinical Laboratory Personnel, among other requirements under Florida Statute. However, the bill also acknowledged that any federal clinical lab requirements under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA) program remain in place. The bill unanimously passed the HP committee on Wednesday.