News By Industry
News from Tallahassee for 12/9/13
Supreme Court takes up medical marijuana case posted on 12/5/13
by JAMES L. ROSICA | Tampa Tribune
TALLAHASSEE — The battle over medical marijuana moves to the state’s highest court today, when advocates argue for and against the state’s proposed ballot question.
The measure aims to create a state constitutional amendment, to be voted on in 2014, decriminalizing marijuana to treat “debilitating conditions” such as AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses.
The fight before the justices is technical, centering on whether the ballot summary is clear and accurate.
People United for Medical Marijuana, the committee behind the initiative and led by personal-injury attorney John Morgan, thinks it is. Morgan is friend and recent employer to Charlie Crist, now Democratic candidate for governor.
Attorney General Pam Bondi, who joined with the Republican-majority Legislature to oppose the measure, argues the language is misleading and would make Florida “one of the most lenient medical-marijuana states.”
Twenty states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized medical marijuana under state law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
A ruling by the Florida Supreme Court against the initiative likely will be fatal to the effort to get it on the ballot in time for the 2014 election. The state’s constitution requires a decision no later than April 1.
As of Monday, the state’s Division of Elections reported 133,296 valid signatures toward the 683,149 needed by February to get the initiative on the ballot. There were 14,198 signatures from Hillsborough County, 10,163 from Pinellas and 3,673 from Pasco.
Rod Sullivan, a constitutional law professor at Jacksonville’s Florida Coastal School of Law, said Bondi’s argument is the stronger. He predicts defeat for the pro-marijuana forces.
Lawmakers Face Decision About Doctor Pay posted on 11/15/13
by JIM SAUNDERS | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
Florida physicians made the argument for years: The state's Medicaid payment rates have been so low that many doctors stayed away from the program.
But the federal Affordable Care Act provided a temporary solution. In 2013 and 2014, the law calls on the federal government to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to boost the pay of primary-care physicians who provide much of the treatment for low-income Floridians enrolled in Medicaid.
Now, however, Florida lawmakers and doctors face a dilemma. The federal government will stop covering the full cost of the physician pay increases at the end of next year. And that means Florida taxpayers would have to pick up part of the extra cost if the pay hikes are going to continue, starting in January 2015.
The Florida Medical Association, an influential physicians group, has started lobbying lawmakers to include money in the upcoming 2014-15 fiscal-year budget to prevent doctors from falling back to lower payment rates. But it wouldn't come cheap: The FMA estimates the state's cost at roughly $135 million -- and a state report last year put the potential cost even higher.
Lawmakers Look for Cures to Health System Needs posted on 11/7/13
by JIM SAUNDERS | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
Baby boomers are getting older. So are primary-care doctors and nurses. And Florida's population continues to grow.
That combination could create a prescription for problems in Florida's health-care system during the next two decades.
A House committee Wednesday began studying the complex set of issues, as it looks for ways to make sure the state has enough doctors and other health-care workers to meet its needs. It's too early to know what the committee will recommend, but ideas range from taking steps to train -- and keep -- more doctors in Florida to using new technology such as telemedicine.
State economist Amy Baker presented information to the committee that pointed toward problems as the state moves toward 2030, the year when the first batch of baby boomers will hit their mid-80s. By that time, Florida's population is projected to grow to 23.6 million from the 2012 total of roughly 19 million, and nearly a quarter of the residents are expected to be ages 65 or older.
Baker said baby boomers will be relatively healthy and have financial assets when they first retire, but they will need more health-care services and their bank accounts will shrink as 2030 gets closer. The baby boom generally includes people born from 1946 to 1964.
DOH Officials Flub Basic Question posted on 11/7/13
by Carol Gentry | Health News Florida
Each year, the Florida Department of Health is required to publish an update on the physician workforce, to help the Legislature in strategic planning. That report, which came out this month, said there are 43,406 in active practice.
And yet, two officials who appeared before a House panel examining the health care workforce on Wednesday were stumped when members asked how many physicians the state has. After members asked the questions half a dozen times, the DOH officials said they'd have to get back to the committee, which next meets in January.
As the Florida Current reports, the matter created a testy exchange at the hearing before the House Select Committee on Health Care Workforce Innovation. The cross-examination went on for about 20 minutes.
The two DOH officials who couldn't come up with an answer -- even though it pops right up if you search "doctors" on the agency's website -- were Dr. Alma Littles of the DOH Physician Advisory Council and Debbie Reich of the Bureau of Community Health Assessment.
The physician workforce report, based on an annual survey, found that more than 62,300 physicians live in the state, but only about 70 percent of them are in active practice. Nearly two-thirds are age 50 or older, a concern as the population ages and health-care needs grow. That is why House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, appointed the select committee...
One-year-old data on a Kaiser Family Foundation website are somewhat different. They show 46,830 Florida physicians as of November 2012, almost half of whom were described as engaged in primary care. The KFF data are from a private company, Redi-Data Inc.
Week in Review: Capital Report: 11-01-2013 posted on 11/4/13
by WFSU News
For many uninsured Floridians, the federal government’s online marketplace offers an opportunity to obtain health insurance—the cost of which will be heavily subsidized...
Florida’s hungry are about to get hungrier. This month, those who depend on food stamps got a little less to spend and members of Congress are discussing a plan that could cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, even further...
Customers of privately owned water companies could see their rates drop, if one state senator gets his bill passed in the 2014 legislative session...
For two-decades, commercial fishermen and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have battled over rules regulating fishing nets...
Follow us on Twitter