Every legislative session, there are few organizations that have as much on their legislative agenda as the powerful doctors’ lobbying group – the Florida Medical Association (FMA). Whether they are playing defense in stopping the scope of practice expansion of non-M.D.’s, taking on trial lawyers on med mal, or fighting the health insurance industry, none of their issues are ever easy and this year was no exception.
Early in this year’s session, it looked like the FMA was going to lose some major battles as the House Select Committee on Health Care Workforce Innovation made independent practice for nurses and telemedicine the centerpiece of their bold proposal to reshape health care in Florida. The nurse bill would have greatly expanded the scope of practice by allowing some nurses to practice independently without any physician supervision and to prescribe dangerous narcotics such oxycodone. On telemedicine, the House proposal would have allowed physician to practice telemedicine on Florida patients without a Florida license. The FMA insisted that out-of-state physicians get a Florida license before engaging in telemedicine in the state.
However, the FMA prevailed on these issues when their allies in the Florida Senate unanimously voted to strip the nurse scope of practice and telemedicine provisions out of the House Health Care train.
In addition to killing scope of practice expansion for nurses and stopping a telemedicine proposal that they felt went too far, the FMA was a key player in the passage of legislation to make low-THC, non-euphoric cannabis available to cancer patients and children with intractable epilepsy. The FMA was able to help shape the regulatory framework for medical marijuana through the creation of a “compassionate-use registry” and by requiring that doctors recommending the drug to their patients to go through eight hours’ of training (provided exclusively by the FMA). It is fair to say that the FMA’s endorsement of this bill gave many legislators the comfort they needed to vote for this measure.
The FMA was also one of the driving forces behind the Miam-Dade Infectious Disease Elimination Pilot Program, a public health initiative aimed at preventing the spread of blood-bourne diseases such as HIV. Different versions of this legislation passed the House and Senate and the bill was poised to pass the Senate before time expired late Fridayevening. The FMA earned much respect from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for championing this important public health issue, which was pushed by a coalition of medical students.
Once again, the FMA has shown that on all issues related to health care, they are a force to be reckoned with.