Senate kills, then resurrects doctors-dispensing-drugs bill

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With one business lobbyist likening the bill to “Lazarus,” a Senate panel Tuesday kept alive a controversial proposal about doctors dispensing drugs to workers-compensation insurance patients, reports Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee initially voted to kill the measure (SB 668). But the panel reversed its decision a few minutes later, after one senator scurried back to the meeting — and another changed his vote.

“It’s now the Lazarus bill,” said David Hart, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which has made the bill a priority. “It’s sprung back from death.”

The issue centers on doctors who dispense drugs in their offices to workers-compensation patients, instead of writing prescriptions that are filled at pharmacies. Doctors dispense what are known as “repackaged” drugs, which are not subject to the same price limits as other drugs.

Business groups contend repackaged drugs drive up workers-compensation insurance premiums and want lawmakers to limit what doctors can charge. The full House is ready to consider such a bill (HB 511).

The Senate measure (SB 668) originally included such limits, though the Senate Health Regulation Committee made changes last week that business groups did not support. Bill sponsor Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, hopes to undo those changes — which made Tuesday’s vote that could have killed the bill crucial.

At first, the Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee voted 4-2 to defeat the bill. But after subcommittee member Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, quickly came back to the meeting after an absence — and Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, changed his vote — the bill passed 4-3. Garcia did not offer an explanation before the second vote.

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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.