Helping Physicians Practice Medicine
60 days of Session. Approximately 2,500 total bills filed. 120 members of the Florida House, and 40 Florida Senators. A professional advocacy team that flags and tracks on average 350 bills. What does this mean to you? The Florida Medical Association has you covered.
Representing over 20,000 physicians across the state of Florida, the FMA and its premier Governmental Affairs staff advocates on behalf of Florida’s physicians and the patients for which they care, every Legislative Session—and the entire year leading up to it. Why? Because every year, physicians face more hurdles as they try to manage their practice, from insurance companies, trial attorneys, and reimbursement issues to government bureaucracy and red tape.
The 2012 legislative session is now behind us, and the Florida Medical Association successfully played defense against harmful legislation while securing significant provisions that will protect Florida’s patients. While the political climate during this election year prevented movement on certain issues, the overall outcome was positive for Florida physicians. This was not by chance. Without the FMA’s diligence and the work of our excellent governmental affairs staff, we wouldn’t have accomplished these results.
Here are some highlights of our work this Session:
Personal Injury Protection
HB 119 (Jim Boyd) revises provisions relating to mandatory Personal Injury Protection automobile insurance. It limits PIP coverage to treatment at a hospital within 14 days of an accident for an “emergency medical condition” and necessary follow-up care by specified professionals. PIP coverage for treatment for a non-emergency medical condition is capped at $2,500. Massage therapy and acupuncture services are not covered. The bill does not cap attorney fees for disputed payments or claims but does prohibit the use of “contingency risk multipliers” in calculating attorney fee awards. The bill does not authorize insurance companies to require physicians to submit to arbitrary and intrusive “examinations under oath.”
Youth Athletes/Head Trauma
HB 291 (Ronald “Doc” Renuart, DO) requires the Florida High School Athletic Association and independent youth sanctioning authorities to develop “return to play” policies for athletes who sustain a traumatic head injury. Further, the bill defines the membership of the sports medicine advisory committee of the Florida High School Athletic Association as follows: eight MDs or DOs, one dentist, one podiatrist, one chiropractor, one retired coach, and three athletic trainers. Chiropractors’ efforts to amend the bill so that they would be authorized to clear athletes to return to play were unsuccessful.
HB 509 (Ana Rivas Logan) authorizes pharmacists to administer the pneumonia vaccine to adults pursuant to a protocol with a physician, and to administer the shingles vaccine to adults pursuant to a prescription from a physician. Initial educational certification and continuing education is required.
HB 943 (Doug Holder) revises requirements for background screening of volunteers and licensees of various professions, and contains provisions that will ultimately allow fingerprints to be “shared” among state agencies to avoid duplicative screening requirements. The FMA was able to remove from the bill a provision that would have required all physicians to be re-fingerprinted upon renewal of their license.
Did Not Pass
SB 594 (Ronda Storms) and HB 1143 (Frederick W. “Fred” Costello) would have authorized the Department of Health to suspend or revoke a physician’s license based solely on the physician being arrested or under investigation for violating specified criminal laws.
HB 1329 (Richard Corcoran) and SPB 7186 (Health Regulation) would have limited the charges of a physician providing ER services to PPO patients to the amount set by the patient’s insurance plan and would have restricted physicians from recovering fees for non-emergency services provided in a hospital to PPO patients.
Medical Liability Reform
SB 1506 (Thrasher), SB 1316 (Don Gaetz), and HB 385 (Matt Gaetz) would have extended the state’s sovereign immunity protections to services rendered by physicians in an ER, allowed defendants in a medical liability case access to interview subsequent treating physicians, and increased the burden of proof in cases alleging failure to order supplemental diagnostic testing to a “clear and convincing” evidentiary standard. SB 1506 and SB 1316 were later amended to include provisions that would have delineated conditions under which optometrists could prescribe specified oral medications.
Optometrist Scope-of-Practice Expansion
HB 261 (Matthew H. “Matt” Caldwell), SB 788 (Mike Bennett) and 718 (Bennett) would have authorized optometrists to prescribe an unlimited number and type of oral medications.
ARNP Scope-of-Practice Expansion
SB 1014 (Bennett) and HB 1267 (Charles Van Zant) would have authorized ARNPs to prescribe narcotics. Sen. Bennett also unsuccessfully attempted to amend these provisions into a budget bill on the Senate floor. Efforts to amend other bills to authorize ARNPs to release persons submitted for involuntary examinations under the Baker Act were defeated.
Electrologist Scope-of-Practice Expansion
HB 381 (Rivas Logan) and SB 1330 (Alan Hays) would have removed requirements in law for direct supervision of electrologists performing laser hair removal.
Chiropractor Scope-of-Practice Expansion
SB 948 (Dennis Jones) would have authorized chiropractors to be included in the list of medical professionals authorized to clear youth athletes to return to play following a traumatic head injury. HB 291, a related bill that did not contain provisions sought by chiropractors, did pass.
This is not a complete list of all the legislative issues the FMA tackled. For a more extensive overview, FMA members should feel free to contact us.
The FMA worked extremely hard on physicians’ behalf this legislative session. Though session is over, our work does not end here. The 2012 election cycle is well underway, and we must now engage in the political process to make sure pro-medicine candidates are elected to office. You can support these Friends of Medicine by joining the FMA PAC today. Now is the time to get involved. And, if you have colleagues who are not FMA members, please tell them about everything we do to help physicians practice medicine.
For more information about the FMA PAC, go to flmedical.org.
story by Miguel A. Machado, M.D., Florida Medical Association President