The Florida Legislature ended its regular 2017 Session on May 5 with the passage of an $82.42 billion budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2017. The smallest number of bills since the 1998 session were passed, and several big issues did not reach the finish line before the official close.
SB 1760 / HB 1195: Deregulation of certain health care facilities
For assisted living communities, this bill removed the requirement to obtain a state waiver for clinical laboratories, gave additional powers to the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to address unlicensed assisted living communities and streamlined aspects of the licensing process. This bill also contained amendments added by Florida Argentum that eased regulatory burdens on providers and provided clarity to the interpretation of residents’ rights.
Florida Argentum worked closely with AHCA, the Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA), Sen. Denise Grimsley (R-Lake Placid) and Reps. Alex Miller (R-Sarasota) and Larry Ahern (R-Seminole) throughout the session to promote the bill. During the legislative process, AHCA made its interpretation of FS 429.256(3)(b) clear – when an unlicensed person provides assistance with the self-administration of medications, the medication label must be read out loud to the resident at the time of assistance. The legislation would have specified and limited the information on the label that must be read out loud; regardless, Florida Argentum will be working with AHCA and DOEA to gain the needed clarity. The bill passed the House unanimously but unfortunately died in the Senate.
SB 1430 / HB 1349: Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC)
This bill would have drastically changed the way CCRCs raise capital and required additional reserve funds. Florida Argentum worked hard to educate the Office of Insurance Regulation, the Department of Financial Services, and legislative sponsors about the fundamental shift in the CCRC business model posed by the legislation. The bills died in committee.
HB 7117: Statewide Medicaid Managed Care
This bill would have consolidated the Medicaid program from 11 regions to eight larger regions throughout the state and provided for fines and sanctions against managed care plans that failed to comply with claim payment requirements. Both chambers agreed on consolidation but amendments added in the final days of session ultimately prevented the bill’s passage.
SB 1582 / HB 7085: Workers Compensation
In 2016, the Florida Supreme Court found aspects of the state’s workers compensation system unconstitutional, which led to a 14.5 percent rate increase. The Legislature sought to reform the system, but after much debate, the House and Senate were not able to reach an agreement on the cap for hourly attorney fees.
SB 406 / HB 1397: Medical Marijuana
This bill would have implemented the 2016 constitutional amendment that allows doctors to prescribe marijuana as a treatment for patients with certain conditions. The House and Senate were not able to bridge the gap between their positions on how many marijuana dispensaries the state should have. Now the Department of Health will attempt to continue its rulemaking efforts under a law that passed last year allowing medical marijuana for terminally ill patients. However, both Senate President Joe Negron (R-Palm City) and House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Lutz) have indicated they may seek a special session to deal with the issue.
Bills that Passed:
HB 221: Transportation Network Companies
This legislation established state preemption over local regulation of ride sharing transportation companies and made statewide regulation of autonomous vehicles possible. This bill was signed into law by Governor Scott on May 9, 2017.
HB 727: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility
This bill attempts to provide relief from serial filers of actions alleging ADA violations. While prevailing plaintiffs are not entitled to monetary damages for past discrimination, the ADA grants courts discretion to award attorney’s fees. The bill allows qualified persons to perform an ADA compliance audit so a business can obtain a certificate of conformity which may be used in court to establish a presumption of compliance with the ADA. The bill is awaiting presentation to the Governor.
Health Care Portion of State Budget
As part of its overall $82.42 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2017, the Florida Legislature agreed to spend $34.17 billion on health care, spread across five state agencies.
Due to a looming deficit next year, the Legislature chose to begin cutting budgets and increasing state reserves. The health care budget was probably the hardest hit, with hospitals taking the brunt of the spending reductions. In total, hospitals will endure a $521 million cut to their various Medicaid reimbursements. However, there is at least some relief on the horizon, as the state Agency for Health Care Administration is currently negotiating the final details of a $1.5 billion low-income pool program designed to assist hospitals with the costs of charity care.
Elsewhere in the budget, an industry workgroup was created to study the prospective payment system for nursing homes and make recommendations on implementation. The Legislature allocated $38.7 million to complete construction of the state’s seventh veteran’s nursing home, and $3 million more was provided to renovate an existing Navy health building into an eighth facility. Funding was provided for additional slots in various Department of Elder Affairs programs such as the Community Care for the Elderly (CCE) Program, the Home Care for the Elderly (HCE) Program, Public Guardianship Services and Alzheimer’s Respite Care. The waiting list for the Home and Community Based Services Waiver Program at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities was shortened with the provision of additional dollars.
The growing opioid addition crisis also commanded attention; legislation was passed with increased funding toward several initiatives to create better access to treatment for substance abuse as well as investigate and prosecute criminal and regulatory violations within the substance abuse treatment industry. Mental health treatment programs also will see increased funding.