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Get the latest coverage of the 2024 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

A health care access bill has cleared its final House committee

Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, opens a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives for Gov. Ron DeSantis to give his State of the State address in Tallahassee, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)
Gary McCullough
Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo has made health care access a priority this session. As lawmakers in the House Health & Human Services Committee prepared to vote, many praised Passidomo for her leadership on the issue.

The measure, a priority of Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, next heads to the House floor. The Senate version has already passed.

A bill to address the state’s growing doctor shortage has cleared its final House committee.

The House Health & Human Services Committee on Thursday unanimously approved the bill (HB 1549), sponsored by House Majority Leader Michael Grant, R-Port Charlotte.

The Senate passed its version (SB 7016) last month.

The measure has been a priority for Senate President Kathleen Passidomo.

As lawmakers prepared to vote, many praised Passidomo for her leadership on the issue. committee Chair Randy Fine, R-Brevard County, says residents owe Passidomo a "great deal of gratitude."

Fine calls the comprehensive package “100 bills in one.” The measure, which includes $717 million in spending, aims to grow the state's health care workforce by creating new residency slots, offering increased access to student loan programs and making it easier for doctors from out of the state and country to work in Florida.

Gant says the legislation isn't perfect, but he thinks it’s a good start.

“There are things that we all would like to change, but this is a process that we all go through with all our bills," Gant says. "There are good parts of some bills and we love them to death and there are parts we think we could make a little better. Because I’m termed out, this is the product we have in front of us. I think it’s a great jumping off point for the things that we are going to need in the state in the future.”

Gant says something he would have liked to add to the bill is a scholarship to encourage medical students coming from disadvantaged areas.

Meanwhile, Democrats continue to raise concerns that neither the House nor the Senate measure expands Medicaid eligibility. Medicaid is a state and federally funded health insurance program for low income individuals. The fight to expand it has been yearslong, and Passidomo kicked this session off by saying revisiting those talks is a no-go in her chamber.

“I understand the arguments both for and against. We’ve had the debate several times over the last decade. Medicaid expansion is not going to happen in Florida," Passidomo said.
Passidomo says the problem Floridians are facing now is that there aren’t enough doctors to see every who needs an appointment — regardless of whether they have insurance.

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Regan McCarthy covers healthcare and government in Tallahassee, Florida. She is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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