Our first Florida newsletter of 2023 features a conversation with newly appointed House health committee Chair Rep. Randy Fine about his priorities for this session, a breakdown of some of the health-related funding proposals in Gov. Ron DeSantis’s recently released FY 2023-2024 budget, and information on how healthcare leaders in the state are preparing for Medicaid redeterminations.
Reporter Hannah Saunders has been doing some great coverage, including a story about how a state board has proposed asking students mandatory menstruation-related questions in order to participate in high school sports.
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State of Reform
1. House health committee chair Rep. Randy Fine on 2023 priorities
Reporter Hannah Saunders recently spoke with newly appointed House health committee chair Rep. Randy Fine to hear about what he’s planning to focus on during the upcoming session. Among his priorities is minimizing the government’s involvement in health insurance, saying, “I fundamentally do not believe it is the role of government to seize by force one person’s money to give it to someone else.”
In addition to fighting for pro-life policy, Fine says he will prioritize the prohibition of gender-affirming care, particularly for children. He anticipates the committee to take up a number of bills on the topic. “I believe that we should affirm that boys are boys and girls are girls,” he said. “Children, we have an obligation to protect from the mutilation and abuse that the woke left is pushing.”
2. DeSantis releases FY 2023-2024 budget proposal
Gov. DeSantis released his $114 billion FY 2023-2024 Framework for Freedom budget on Feb. 1st, which calls for notable tax cuts and prioritizes investments in behavioral health, cancer research, and affordable housing. His proposed budget for AHCA is $38.5 billion (a decrease of $2 billion from the current FY’s budget) and his budget for the Department of Health is $3.7 billion (an increase of $196 million).
Specifically notable funding includes $531 million to improve behavioral health through prevention services, medication assisted treatment, recovery support, and more; $402.7 million to fully fund the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Funds; and $166 million for cancer research, $20 million of which would establish the Florida Cancer Innovation Fund. The governor is also calling for the prohibition on the use of state funds for gender-affirming care and abortion services.
3. Health leaders prepare for Medicaid redeterminations
Health leaders are hyper-focused on spreading awareness about the redetermination of Medicaid eligibility—which begins on April 1st—for 4.7 million of Florida’s 5.5 million total enrollees. During a recent Senate health committee meeting, DCF’s Casey Penn said 900,000 Floridians will eventually be ineligible for the program as the process progresses. There are an additional 850,000 individuals the agency hasn’t heard from that will be prioritized after that, he said.
The final group the department will prioritize are the most vulnerable, including children with complex conditions, so that DCF can have time to collaborate with healthcare providers about supporting the population. In response to a question from committee member Sen. Rosalind Osgood about recent economic changes potentially changing eligibility parameters, Penn affirmed that the federal cost of living adjustment is being incorporated into the process.
4. Will Florida permanently end COVID mandates?
Gov. DeSantis proposed permanently banning COVID-related mandates in the state last month. This comes after a Florida high court recently approved DeSantis’s proposal to establish a grand jury to investigate alleged wrongdoings committed by vaccine developers. In 2021, the governor signed legislation to prohibit employers, government entities, and educational institutions from implementing COVID-related mandates.
Specific prohibitions outlined in DeSantis’s new “Prescribe Freedom” proposal include vaccine passports, school masking requirements, and the consideration of vaccination status when hiring employees. Sen. Joe Gruters has filed a bill to implement the ban on COVID mandates, which awaits a committee hearing.
5. Recent health committee activity
We’ve been keeping tabs on the first batch of health-related committee meetings in the Florida Legislature, including a recent House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee meeting that featured input about needed funding for cancer research. Daniel Armstrong of Florida’s Biomedical Research Advisory Council said the state needs more cancer research grants and to focus on reducing obesity, given growing research linking it to cancer.
During the same meeting, county health leader Mark Lander outlined how workforce growth efforts are needed to meet the need for long-term care across the state. The Senate health committee also recently met to discuss the implementation of a bill passed last year that aims to increase hospital capacity by promoting home-based hospital care. The program has saved more than 6,400 hospital beds saved for highly acute patients, and 98% of patients said they’d likely recommend the program.