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Florida Senate President Passidomo puts her focus on health care

Amid population growth and a shortfall of doctors and nurses, the Florida Senate next week will start crafting legislation aimed at expanding access to health care.

The Senate Health Policy Committee will hold a workshop Tuesday “to begin the process of fine-tuning ideas, putting pen to paper, and of course, hearing more input from stakeholders,” Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, wrote Thursday in a memo to senators.

Passidomo said the state’s health-care system will be her focus during the legislative session that will begin Jan. 9.

“Specifically, growing Florida’s health care workforce, increasing access, and incentivizing innovation, so Floridians can have more options and opportunities to live healthy,” her memo, which did not include specific proposals, said.

The Senate president said she and her aides sought input throughout the summer for what she calls the “Live Healthy!” effort.

“There are so many great ideas. Now it is the time to narrow down all of the ideas and put forward patient-focused innovations that improve access and options so more Floridians can live healthy,” Passidomo wrote.

The memo touched on a number of ways legislators could “improve the delivery and cost of health care” with a focus on prevention and early intervention, such as expanding the use of telehealth.

Passidomo’s memo pointed to studies showing that, by 2035, Florida is projected to have a potential shortfall of nearly 18,000 physicians, 37,400 registered nurses and 21,700 licensed practical nurses. The average age of the 58,062 full-time physicians practicing in Florida in 2022 was 53 — including about 33 percent over age 60, the memo said.

The state needs more maternity rooms, services for older people and primary-care providers, as well as more health-care resources in rural areas, Passidomo said.

“Specialists are needed across the state, as are options to access urgent, but non-life threatening, conditions outside of a hospital setting. What do you do at midnight when you get sick? Sometimes there is only one place to go — the emergency room. But that may not be the most appropriate place,” the memo said.

Passidomo also indicated lawmakers could continue a years-long effort to expand telehealth.

“Technology offers the opportunity to increase access to robust provider networks at lower costs. While in-person visits are essential for many conditions, others are quite conducive to remote appointments, convenient to patients and practitioners alike,” she wrote.

The committee, chaired by Lakeland Republican Colleen Burton, is slated to meet at 4 p.m Tuesday.