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. Read below about bills supported by Florida Argentum and bills involving senior living and senior care that were opposed or followed.
BILLS THAT PASSED:
HB 221: Transportation Network Companies
This legislation established state preemption over local regulation of ride sharing transportation companies (primarily Uber and Lyft) and made statewide regulation of autonomous vehicles possible. This bill was signed into law by Governor Scott on May 9, 2017.
SB 474: Hospice Care
Requires the Department of Elder Affairs, in conjunction with AHCA, to adopt federal hospice outcome measures by Dec. 31, 2019 and to make such measures available to the public; authorizes certain hospice personnel to assist in the disposal of certain prescribed controlled substances, and requires a hospice to maintain an up-to-date interdisciplinary record of care. The bill is awaiting presentation to the Governor.
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 federal ADA grants courts discretion to award attorney’s fees, thus providing the impetus for attorneys to file ADA claims. The bill allows qualified persons to perform an ADA compliance audit so a business can obtain a certificate of conformity with the ADA. The certificate may then be used in court to establish a presumption of compliance with the ADA and enable the court to determine if the lawsuit filing is frivolous. It is thought that this procedure will reduce the number of ADA complaint filings. The bill is awaiting presentation to the Governor.
HB 6021: Home Health Agency Licensure
Repeals a provision prohibiting AHCA from issuing a license to a home health agency applicant which is located within 10 miles a licensed home health agency that has common controlling interests. The bill is awaiting presentation to the Governor.
HB 7109: Taxation
The Governor’s press release for this bill touts an exemption from ad valorem property taxes for “assisted living facilities.” This is more generous than the actual bill language, as the exemption applies only to assisted living communities that are exempt from federal income taxes under s. 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Currently, section 196.197, F.S., grants an exemption from ad valorem property taxes to non-profit 501(c)(3) exempt hospitals, nursing homes, and homes for special services. The bill language simply changed the definition of “homes for special services” in section 196.012, F.S., to include assisted living facilities, thereby allowing the exemption from ad valorem property taxes. The bill was signed into law by Governor Scott on May 25, 2017.
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 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 to investigate and prosecute criminal and regulatory violations within the substance abuse treatment industry. Mental health treatment programs also will see increased funding.
BILLS THAT DID NOT PASS:
SB 1760 / HB 1195: Health Care Facility Regulation
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. Florida Argentum will continue working with AHCA and DOEA to gain the needed clarity. The bill passed the House unanimously but died in the Senate.
SB 1508 / HB 739: Assisted Living Facility Employee Certification
This bill required a “voluntary” certification of every assisted living employee to be administered by a third-party credentialing entity. The certification included initial fees, a biennial renewal and accompanying fees, training requirements, additional background screening, and gave authority to the credentialing entity to discipline the employee. The certification was in addition to training, continuing education, and background screening requirements that are already set forth in Chapter 429, F.S. Florida Argentum strenuously opposed these bills. The bills died in committee.
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.
SB 518 / HB 703 Elder Abuse Fatality Review Team
This bill created a task force comprised of various stakeholders to review fatal and near-fatal instances of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation for purposes of developing policy that could prevent it from happening in the future. The legislation allowed for any member of the business community to participate on the task force. The documents and information gathered in the review process would not be discoverable in lawsuits unless the information could be obtained from other sources. Florida Argentum opposed this bill. The bill was withdrawn from consideration before the midpoint of session.
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 before the end of the legislative session.
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 “debilitating” medical conditions (e.g., post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, Parkinson’s Disease). 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 incorporate Amendment 2 in its rulemaking efforts under a bill the Legislature 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.
SB 884: Shark Fins
This bill makes it a crime to possess a shark fin that is separated from a shark body, except under limited circumstances. Sharks have been overfished globally in the pursuit of making the Chinese delicacy, shark fin soup. Shark finning is the practice of removing and retaining shark fins at sea while discarding the remainder of the shark’s body, often while the shark is still alive, into the waters. The bill was signed into law by Governor Scott on May 23, 2017.