House Health panel prepares to scrutinize care standards, more curbs on abortion

By: - January 4, 2023 4:33 pm

Sen. Chuck Clemons, a Republican from North Central Florida, on April 7, 2021. Source: Screenshot/Florida Channel

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

Abortion access likely also will come up, although the topic didn’t come up during a meeting of the Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee.

Charles “Chuck” Clemons, presiding over the panel, explained that members of the panel will be responsible for improving standards of care demanded of medical providers. He represents Gilchrist, Levy, and part of Alachua counties.

“We are going to attempt to ensure quality of care by setting minimum standards,” Clemons said. “And sometimes that’s where the argument begins — is where would that minimum standard end. And some of us and some of you will push for more or some of you will push for less. And so, somewhere in the middle, we will come out.”

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

“We address issues that affect not only the welfare and health and the safety of the public, but other issues ranging from health care practitioners, health care facility regulations, and regulating activities that have a direct impact on all aspects of the public health,” Clemons said.

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

Abortion

One major issue could be whether the Legislature pushes for more restrictions on abortion care. Gov. Ron DeSantis has remained mum about what he wants to do in this area beyond saying that he would “sign great life legislation.”

Existing Florida law bans abortions past 15 weeks’ gestation without exception for rape or incest. However, Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo has said she supports a ban on the care after 12 weeks with exceptions for rape and incest, as previously reported by the Florida Phoenix.

“You will see this room filled up through the course of the committee process on many sides of an issue,” Clemons said. “There’s the right side and the wrong side and then may be your side. And then we will hear testimony from people in the public that will convey things sometimes that we didn’t think of in this process.”

Introductions

Each state lawmaker gave an introduction of their professional background and experience. Not everyone had backgrounds in health care.

State Rep. Gallop Franklin, a Democrat representing Gadsden and part of Leon counties, is a graduate of Florida A&M University’s College of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences.

“I am a pharmacist by trade,” he said. “And health care for me has just always been so important to this entire regional community. I believe access to quality health care is very, very important. … We all know that health care can impact economics of families. And so, the better quality we have and the consistency of preventive services, we can prevent from patients reaching that point where it gets 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 around $3.4 billion, Clemons said.

“It seems to be a lot of demand, most of the time it all is centered around the amount of money or the amount of allocation that goes to that,” Clemons said. “I want to make sure on this committee that those allocations are [spent] wisely, taxpayers are protected, and the people most vulnerable among us are provided those services that they need.”

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.

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