Rx drug importation, Telehealth, Texting Ban among Wins; Costly Utility Bill passed
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida lawmakers adopted a slew of healthcare bills that will help Florida consumers save on prescription drugs and gain easier access to their doctors.
For ratepayers who get their electrical power from investor-owned utilities (FPL, Duke, TECO, Gulf Power, FPUC), lawmakers ignored calls from consumer groups, AARP Florida included, and pushed through legislation that will increase consumers’ monthly bills.
Here is a breakdown of the top issues AARP Florida tracked:
Prescription Drug Importation
Win. AARP Florida pushed hard for passage of legislation that would create two programs to safely import FDA-approved prescription drugs into the state: the Canadian Drug Importation Program and the International Drug Importation Program. Despite pushback from groups organized by pharmaceutical manufacturers, the measure passed with bipartisan support.. AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins and Gov. Ron DeSantis participated in an AARP town hall calling for drug importation.
What’s next: The legislation requires federal action before prescription drug importation can begin.
Silver Solutions Coalition
Win. AARP Florida, the Florida Health Care Association, and LeadingAge Florida – three groups that often differ on central issues involving long-term care – have forged the Coalition for Silver Solutions, committed to developing short- and long-term strategies to meet the health care needs of Florida’s aging population.
What’s next: Now that the legislative session is over, the coalition is planning a Silver Summit – a statewide event bringing together industry leaders, state and local officials, community stakeholders, and residents to find solutions for a graying Florida.
Win. Targeting the statewide shortage of healthcare workers, AARP Florida supported telehealth legislation that will increase access to healthcare by setting practice standards or providers and permitting them to deliver services within their respective scopes of practice.
What’s next: Telehealth may help lower costs for Floridians in rural areas and for seniors who lack transportation options to attend medical appointments.
Win. More than half a dozen health-care proposals addressed a variety of healthcare and health insurance issues. New laws require patients to be notified if they are put on observation status rather than admitted to a hospital outright; allow patients to stay in outpatient surgical centers overnight rather than until midnight; limit HMOs and insurance companies from using “step therapy protocols” for prescription drugs; provide patients hospital quality information and require hospitals to notify a patient’s primary-care provider within 24 hours after the patient’s admission to and discharge from the hospital.
What’s next. Hospital transparency will help patients make more informed decisions about their quality of care. Likewise, having hospitals partner with primary care doctors to ensure a smoother post-hospital transition will benefit patients in the healing process.
Texting While Driving
Win. AARP Florida backed legislation that makes texting while driving a “primary offense.” This means a law enforcement officer will be able to ticket a driver solely for texting while driving. The law bans texting, emailing and instant messaging while driving.
Curbing dangerous driving. Florida continually ranks No. 1 in most pedestrian deaths per capita. Targeting dangerous drivers in the pocketbook is a step in the right direction, especially since a majority of pedestrians killed annually on Florida streets are age 50-plus.
Utility Storm Protection Plans
Loss. Supporters of the legislation convinced the legislature that this legislation is about the undergrounding of power lines (storm hardening) to lessen the impact of hurricanes on Florida’s power grid. AARP agrees that storm hardening throughout Florida is essential, but that was not the crux our objection. The legislation allows state investor-owned utilities (FPL, Duke, TECO, Gulf Power and Florida Public Utilities) to double-dip on their profits through a new annual cost recovery clause.
AARP argued that the intent of the bill could have been be achieved by keeping the recovery of costs in the base rate, therefore avoiding annual rate increases.
Just how much will it cost you? It could cost an upward of $30 billion over 20 years.
Consumer Finance Loans
Win. AARP helped defeat a bill that sought to increase the permissible interest rate for loans under a portion of the state’s Consumer Finance Act.
Flat out price gouging. Some who take out short-term loans live paycheck to paycheck and this huge allowable interest rate would have made it more difficult for borrowers to repay.
General Budget Overview
Flat. The legislature passed a $91.1-billion budget. Funding for Florida’s Aging Network Programs, including Community Care for the Elderly, Home Care for the Elderly and Alzheimer’s Respite Care remain unchanged. A major focus was funding for hurricane recovery expenses in the Florida Panhandle. A few wins in the budget for Florida seniors include:
- Home and Community Based Services received an increase of nearly $4 million. Gains are meaningful, however there continues be large waitlists and growing unmet needs.
- Florida’s Public Guardianship Program that serves indigent elderly and disabled adults received an increase of $2.4 million.
- Affordable Housing programs received an increase of $76 million.
- Hurricane relief in the Florida Panhandle received $115 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.