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A healthcare 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)
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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)

A bill to address the state’s growing doctor shortage has cleared its final House committee. The measure is a priority for Senate President Kathleen Passidomo.

As lawmakers prepared to vote, many praised Passidomo for her leadership on the issue. House Health and Human Services Chair Randy Fine says Florida owes Paddisomo 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 healthcare 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.

Rep. Michael Gant (R-Port Charlotte) is carrying the bill in the House. He says it’s not 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 med 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 years-long and Passidomo kicked this session off, by saying that 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.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

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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