Friday, November 5, 2010

House and Senate Leaders Announce Special Session

Incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R-26) and House Speaker Dean Cannon (R-35) held a press briefing this week to announce a one-day special session on November 16th to override nine of Gov. Charlie Crist's vetoed bills from earlier this year. These nine bills, none of which impact long term care, passed with overwhelming support and were described as “good ideas” and “good public policy” by Speaker Cannon. The leaders said the Legislature would not consider more controversial vetoed bills, such as the teacher merit pay or ultrasounds for women seeking abortion, bills (The Ultrasound bill contains several nursing home regulatory reform issues supported by FHCA).

In addition to these bills, the Legislature will consider restoring only one budget item: a $9.7 million budget line item for Shands, the teaching hospital at the University of Florida. Governor Crist cut the appropriation, and several lawmakers have said restoring it was a top priority.

The leaders also stated that they will consider a resolution to Congress asking that Florida have more discretion in how the Medicaid program is run. They discussed that, during their state tour, they found many problems with Medicaid, including access, tort, quality and rules. They want to be able to provide more flexibility, which is currently getting blocked on a federal level by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). They want to take the “good parts” of the current Medicaid Pilot Program and make it statewide. They also want tort reform in Medicaid. They don’t want to change/create new policy when so much has already been done. Speaker Cannon said that they can’t afford to let people not be included in the plan. During the briefing, Rep. Denise Grimsley (R-77) was mentioned as the key person to develop a bill in this regard.

With respect to nursing home care, there are no plans to override the Governor’s veto of the Medicaid funding cuts or any bills impacting long term care. During the special session, legislators will craft a document to send to Congress that will serve as a roadmap for Medicaid reform efforts. No substantive Medicaid reform will occur in the special session, however.

The one-day special session will coincide with organizational session, November 16th.

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