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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida House passes 'free-market' health care options



A series of free-market health care reform proposals passed the Florida House on Wednesday.

Taken together, the changes are the bulk of the House's health care agenda, which Republican leaders in the chamber have emphasized since the Medicaid expansion debate last summer. Their goal is to cut regulations, hoping that will encourage greater competition, decrease costs and increase access to health care.

On Wednesday, the House passed these proposals with broad support from Republicans and Democrats:

• Setting rules for telemedicine, which allows out-of-state doctors to use technology to serve patients in Florida, and clarifying that it is legal. (HB 7087)

• Allowing people to contract directly with doctors to pay for primary care without involving insurance companies. Those choosing this option would still need to have some level of health coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act. (HB 37)

• Giving advanced registered nurse practitioners and physicians' assistants the right to prescribe narcotics and other drugs. Lawmakers named the bill after longtime Florida Nurses Association lobbyist Barbara Lumpkin. (HB 423)

• Creating recovery centers that can care for patients for 72 hours after surgery. They also extended the amount of time patients can stay at ambulatory surgical centers to 24 hours. (HB 85)

One of the approved bills creates sweeping price transparency requirements (HB 1175), which supporters say would allow patients to better shop for non-emergency coverage. They didn't include strict restrictions advocated by Gov. Rick Scott intended to stop "price-gouging" at hospitals.

The House also passed a bill meant to protect consumers from "balance billing," a practice by doctors to directly bill patients for services not covered by insurance, which often happens when hospitals contract with outside doctors.

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[Last modified: Wednesday, March 2, 2016 10:59pm]


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