Florida Five: Life-saving trauma bills in spotlight, Lawmakers start bundling

Five of today’s top Florida political stories at your fingertips:

greedy_pig_1Greedy Florida hospitals try to protect profits by blocking new trauma centers: Two bills wending their way through the Legislature would give Floridians better access to life-saving trauma care – a critical need in a state that’s scraping the bottom in national rankings on access to emergency treatment. And yet a turf battle has broken out in the emergency care industry, with tax-exempt hospitals trying to protect their profits by blocking new trauma centers. If they win, guess who loses? The emergency patient. That’s why some key legislative leaders are backing the two pro-patient bills. One measure, CS/SB 1276, sponsored by Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, and the Senate Health Policy Committee, would reform the state’s regulatory process to make it easier for new trauma centers to open. The second, CS/HB 7113, sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, and the House Health Care Appropriations and Health Innovation subcommittees, would put the brakes on efforts to stop health-care giant HCA from opening new trauma centers around the state. Read more. 

House may bundle health care proposals in hopes of gaining Senate support: In hopes of improving the chances of final passage for several House initiatives that have either been languishing or watered down in the Senate, a committee will consider bundling several health care proposals into two omnibus bills Thursday. The House Health and Human Services Committee will consider two “proposed committee substitutes” during its meeting Thursday morning. Both proposals tack on less popular measures to issues that have widespread support in the Senate: assisted living facilities reforms and allowing three HCA-owned trauma centers to remain open regardless of ongoing legal challenges. Read more. 

House cuts the ‘expansion’ out of voucher expansion: A plan to further expand Florida’s school-voucher program on Wednesday was stripped of the actual “expansion” in the cap on how much tax money could be used to support low-income students in private schools. But the larger House bill, HB 7167, still includes language increasing the income levels allowed for students to utilize the voucher system, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, in order to keep its enrollment growing. After Senate Republicans declared the bill on life-support, House Republicans had salvaged the push to ramp up the “cap” for corporations funding vouchers in exchange for tax credits by merging it with a “learning-account” bill for parents of disabled children. Read more.

Jail

Florida TaxWatch Study urges lowering some felonies to misdemeanors: Pointing to a 400 percent growth in the state’s prison population over the last 35 years, Florida TaxWatch released a study on Wednesday which finds Florida could save significantly by cutting down on the incarceration of nonviolent felons. The study calls for a review of third-degree felonies, insisting some of those could be lowered to misdemeanors. “Florida’s criminal justice system can do more to improve public safety beyond locking up all offenders,” said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, on Wednesday. Read more.

First data in 33 years shows 4,000 Medicare millionaires: Medicare Millionaires Totaling Almost 4,000 Seen in Data Release. Medicare paid almost 4,000 doctors and medical providers more than $1 million apiece in 2012, including seven who received more than $10 million. Eye doctors were among the highest compensated, including one Florida ophthalmologist who received $21 million.The listing, gleaned from 880,000 providers paid by Medicare, was released this morning. The data, the first look at physician payments by the agency in more than 30 years, showed that most spending fell to a small group of doctors, with less than 3 percent taking in about 28 percent of the $64 billion paid out to individual providers. Read more.

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