Does Florida have an overall workforce issue in the health care system?

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Ok, so back from my cruise with my wonderful family and we are already back in full swing of session.  But wait, how is that possible, it is only Opening Day?  Yes, true but fireworks have already lit up the sky this week on health care and medicaid expansion in particular – with most of the Republican leaders all having differing opinions.  Some strong.  Some not so strong.

On one side you have Governor Scott who is now saying that while he never supported Obamacare, he wants to help the uninsured.  Odd timing, I agree,  but that is not the point of this post so I will move on without a flip flop mention or info graphic.  Then, you have the Senate, while not taking a vote this week on whether or not to recommend to the full Senate to support expansion, most chatter has them leaning toward expansion.  Then you have Weatherford who made it pretty clear in his opening remarks that he is opposed Medicaid expansion with little room for misinterpretation.  And then of course we all have heard the cabinet member chorus of opposition that trickled out from Bondi, Putnam and finally Atwater this weekend.

It may come as no surprise to many of you that I support medicaid expansion.  I have for a while and yes I supported President Obama and The Affordable Health Care Act – no shocker there if you all follow my blog.  And while I will continue to support putting the 900,000 uninsured into some form of health care system this session, I want to discuss another issue that is not getting enough attention in my opinion.  If we send all of these new patients into Florida’s health care system – do we have enough health care professionals to handle them?

The hospitals are saying they can’t handle the load of patients coming there for non-emergency health care due to budget cuts.  Doctors are saying that we have a shortage of good doctors either because of our med mal climate or because of other outside influences.  Optometrists are saying they need to be able to provide select oral medications for the eyes because ophthalmologists are not in every rural location in Florida. Nurse practitioners are saying they can deliver basic care to patients to help the backlog and now we have the nurse anesthetists wanting to practice in collaboration with anesthesiologists to deliver anesthesia care. 

Phew….and I am sure I missed a few others.

So I pose this question to my readers.  Do we have an overall workforce issue in the health care system?  Let’s just suppose for a moment that the Senate and the House DO decide to expand Medicaid – who takes care of the 900,000 people who are not on the health care rolls?  Do we have enough primary care doctors and health care professionals who can handle the influx?  And if not, isn’t this a broader health care question that should be discussed, examined and research.

Now to be clear, this is not a scope of practice discussion, in my opinion, it is a basic fact-finding mission and I hope to start the dialogue with this blog.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.