Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples (File)

Florida House Panel Backs Health Care Plan

Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples (File)
Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples (File)

The Florida House on Friday began moving forward with its version of a plan aimed at boosting the number of physicians in the state and taking other steps to expand access to health care.

The House Select Committee on Health Innovation unanimously approved a 315-page bill (HB 1549), sponsored by Majority Leader Michael Grant, R-Port Charlotte.

The vote came a day after the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee approved the Senate version of the plan, a top priority of Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples. The Senate version (SB 7016) could go before the full Senate as soon as next week.

Related: Florida Senate Readies To Pass Health Care Plan

The bills are similar, including calling for steps such as expanding medical residency programs to try to keep more new doctors in Florida, helping clear the way for doctors from other countries to practice in Florida and allowing the creation of what are known as “advanced birth centers.”

Such centers could provide cesarean-section deliveries for women who have what are considered low-risk pregnancies — something not allowed currently at birth centers.

But differences in the bills include the cost: Senate sponsor Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland, said the Senate version would cost about $800 million in state and federal money; Grant said the House version would cost $580 million.

Read: Michigan Man Charged With Assaulting Flight Attendant On Plane To Florida

While House and Senate Democrats supported the bills this week, they repeatedly called for expanding eligibility for health coverage through the Medicaid program.

But Republican leaders, who have long opposed the idea, made clear they would not expand Medicaid.

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