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Capitol Reax: Telehealth, Dozier School for Boys, dental plans, economic incentives

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Efforts to expand telehealth options in Florida are moving through the state Legislature, and the state Senate on Tuesday approved a measure (SB 1686) aimed at improving access.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Aaron Bean, defines telehealth, creates a telehealth task force, and authorizes healthcare practitioners in Florida to participate in telehealth. The measure passed the Senate health policy committee 9-0.

Dominic Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, said in a statement:

“We are extremely pleased that the Legislature has decided to take action on expanding telehealth. Telehealth is critical in providing more high-quality, affordable health care to all Floridians. Florida TaxWatch will continue to educate and recommend to lawmakers the benefits of telehealth during the Legislative Session.”

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Proposals to compensate families of the deceased victims of the Arthur B. Dozier School for Boys cleared their first committee hearings Tuesday.

The bills (SB 708/HB 533) authorize up to $7,500 to the family of a victim for reimbursement of burial and grave marker expenses. The bills also call for a task force to recommend creating a memorial and a permanent site for the re-interment of unidentified or unclaimed remains.

Former Gov. Bob Martinez, a senior policy adviser at Holland & Knight, said in a statement:

“Many boys in Florida were sent to Dozier, and sadly, some never came home. I am proud to support legislation that will finally give these forgotten boys a proper burial and will preserve historical evidence for future research.”

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A bill to address dental services cleared the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.

The bill (SB 994) calls for a comprehensive study by Dec. 1 of whether managed care plans are effective in improving access, satisfaction, delivery and value in dental services. It also calls on the Agency for Health Care Administration to implement separate dental programs for adults and children if the Legislature doesn’t take action on the report by July 1, 2017.

It passed 7-0.

Audrey Brown, president and CEO of the Florida Association of Health Plans, Inc., said in a statement:

“While FAHP does not oppose a study on the effectiveness of dental services under the SMMC program, we do oppose any automatic move to carve out children’s dental services before the study’s findings are evaluated and considered. Policy changes prior to the completion of the study would be premature and would make the study irrelevant.

“The fact is a recently published report by the Agency for Health Care Administration, which looked at year one of carved-in dental services under the SMMC program, found that 43 percent of children in Florida Medicaid have been seen by a dentist. Compare that to when pre-paid dental plans were responsible for providing services, and the Health Policy Institute and the American Dental Association found that dental care use among children in Florida Medicaid over the last decade was a dismal 23 to 26 percent – one of the lowest in the nation.

“There is always room for improvement and Florida’s health plans are striving to further increase the number of Florida children seen by dentists; but, the fact remains that there has been significant increases in the amount of children receiving dental services under the SMMC program.  We urge lawmakers to not turn back the clock and oppose policy changes in SB 994 that would automatically move to carve dental services out before a study can be completed.”

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As lawmakers begin discussing economic incentive packages, Americans for Prosperity—Florida is launching an ad campaign to advocate against wasteful spending.

The organization rolled out a new digital web campaign Tuesday and is urging Floridians to contact their lawmakers. The group has also canvassing the state to educate Floridians about wasteful spending.

Chris Hudson, state director for Americans for Prosperity—Florida, said in a statement:

“Some lawmakers believe that spending millions trying to get big businesses to relocate or expand in Florida, they are doing right by their constituents. But all the best research shows us that this strategy just doesn’t work. Instead, we implore our elected officials to take a closer look at the true needs in their local community. We have failing schools, state roads that need repairs, and countless other real needs, that should take priority over giving away millions to well-connected individuals and corporations.

“Florida is already doing well, and could achieve much more if lawmakers would focus on more broad-based tax cuts to boost our economy, instead of yet more wasteful incentive spending projects.”

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State lawmakers quashed an effort to roll back the living wage in several Florida counties and cities.

The state Senate committee on government oversight and accountability voted 3-2 against a proposal (SB 598) that would roll back the living wages.

Monica Russo, president of the SEIU Florida, said in a statement:

“Efforts by the State Senators in Tallahassee to roll back living wage ordinances in Miami-Dade, Broward, Pinellas, Alachua, and numerous counties and cities across Florida was quashed thanks to a 3-2 vote in the State Senate today.  We applaud the leadership of State Senators Bullard, Latvala and Ring.

Instead of subsidizing corporations with our tax dollars, the Legislature should invest in working families by upholding the current living wage ordinances and encourage the expansion into new cities and counties.

SEIU Florida and our neighbors will continue to organize with renewed vigor to raise Florida’s minimum wage from a measly $8.05 to $15 an hour, which would lift 4 million Floridians and their families out of poverty.”

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The state House is poised to vote on a proposal that creates a regulatory framework for ride share companies.

Among other things, the measure, sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz, creates minimum requirements for drivers, requires so-called transportation network companies to have a zero tolerance policy for drivers and requires companies to disclose their fare calculations.

The proposal is expected to get a final House vote this week.

Logan McFaddin, regional manager for state government relations for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, said in a statement:

“The Florida House of Representatives took an important step to protect Floridians by rolling House Bill 509, which requires Transportation Network Company (TNC) drivers to have adequate insurance coverage from the time the rideshare app is turned on until the app is turned off, to a third reading and continuing to work towards a solution. It is important rideshare drivers know if they operate under their personal auto insurance policy and they get into an auto accident, they may not have coverage. House Bill 509 protects consumers and brings much-needed clarity and consistency to insurance coverage requirements for TNC drivers in Florida.

House Bill 509 is similar to model legislation that was agreed upon by the insurance industry and TNCs last year, and has been passed in some form by 29 other states. PCI thanks Representative Matt Gaetz for his leadership on this issue and we encourage the Florida House to continue to support House Bill 509 as it strikes the right balance between protecting consumers and supporting innovation. We look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers on the passage of this critical legislation.”

Several amendments were shot down, including one by Rep. Kathleen Peters that called for a level 2 background check. Several organizations applauded lawmakers decision to reject those amendments.

Associated Industries of Florida said in a statement:

“Thank you for voting for House Bill 509 as originally introduced, and for fighting floor amendments introduced by Rep. Kathleen Peters and Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez that seek to protect one industry rather than supporting consumer choice.”

R Street Institute said in a statement:

“Fingerprint background checks not as reliable as you think.”

TechNet said in a statement:

“We OPPOSE the amendment filed by Rep. Kathleen Peters. This amendment rejects advancements in safety technology and maintains unnecessary, outdated and bureaucratic requirements of the past. TNCs perform comprehensive background checks for all drivers, including multi-layered and multi-state screenings. Further, their innovative technology tools give riders added safety features like driver profiles, real-time GPS tracking, sharing ride information with friends or loved ones, a two-way rating system, and cashless transactions.”

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