House Health panel prepares to examine standards of care, plus limits on abortion

Ensuring quality health care for Floridians will be a top priority for Florida House members during the 2023 legislative session, a key state committee chairman said Wednesday.

Abortion access will also likely come up, although the topic did not come up during a meeting of the Health Regulatory Subcommittee.

Charles “Chuck” Clemons, who chairs the panel, explained that panel members will be responsible for improving the standards of care required of healthcare professionals. He represents Gilchrist, Levy and parts of Alachua counties.

“We will try to ensure the quality of care by setting minimum standards,” Clemons said. “And sometimes that’s where the discussion starts – that’s where the minimum standard would end up. And some of us and some of you will push for more or some of you will push for less. And so, somewhere in between, we’ll come out.

During the 18-member committee’s first meeting of the new year, Clemons provided an overview of his ambitions for the session.

“We address issues that affect not only the well-being, health and safety of the public, but also other issues ranging from healthcare professionals, healthcare facility regulations and regulatory activities that directly impact all aspects of public health ” said Clemons.

“Health care reform, health care policy, health care laws in Florida start with this committee. I am honored [House] Speaker [Paul] Renner has chosen me to help lead this committee.

Abortion

One major issue could be whether the legislator pushes for further restrictions on abortion care. Gov. Ron DeSantis has remained quiet about what he wants to do in this area other than saying he would “sign big life legislation.”

Current Florida law prohibits abortions beyond 15 weeks of gestation with no exceptions for rape or incest. However, Florida Senate Speaker Kathleen Passidomo said she supported a 12-week cure ban with exceptions for rape and incest, Florida Phoenix previously reported.

“You’re going to see this room fill up over the course of the committee process on many aspects of an issue,” Clemons said. “There’s right side and wrong side and then it could be your side. And then we’ll hear testimonies from people in the public who will sometimes convey things that we hadn’t thought of in this process.

Introductions

Each state legislator presented their professional background and experience. Not all had experience in health care.

State Representative Gallop Franklin, a Democrat who represents Gadsden and parts of Leon counties, is a graduate of Florida A&M University’s College of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences.

“I’m a pharmacist by profession,” he said. “And healthcare for me has always been so important to the whole regional community. I believe access to quality healthcare is very, very important. … We all know that health care can impact the economy of families. And so, the better quality that we have and the consistency of preventive services, we can keep patients from reaching that point where it becomes so expensive to treat.

The committee exercises jurisdiction over the Florida Department of Health and Agency for Health Care Administration. The health department has a budget of about $3.4 billion, Clemons said.

“There seems to be a lot of demand, most of the time it’s all about how much money or how much allocation goes to that,” Clemons said. “I want to make sure in this committee that those allocations are [spent] wisely, taxpayers are protected and the most vulnerable people among us are provided with the services they need.”

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