After agreeing to slash proposed spending by roughly $116 million, Senators approved a pair of bills comprising Senate President Kathleen Passidomo’s Live Healthy proposal.

The plan proposes hundreds of millions in Medicaid rate increases and would pump tens of millions in more money into graduate medical education as a way to help fortify the state’s health care workforce.

Senators tagged six amendments onto SB 7016, including one that trimmed back Medicaid spending in the bill by about $96 million, and another amendment that modified the requirements for hospitals to have nonemergent care access plans before passing the measure unanimously.

The Senate also tagged an amendment onto SB 7018 that reduced funding for the low-interest revolving loan program established in the bill by $25 million. Originally, the bill would have directed $75 million annually for 10 years to the loan program. As unanimously passed Thursday, SB 7018 targets $50 million for health innovation loans instead.

The spending reductions made to the legislation bring the fiscal note on the bills closer in line with similar health care proposals the House is considering. For instance, HB 1549, the companion to SB 7016, has a $548.6 million price tag, whereas SB 7016 now has a $737 million fiscal note.

The fiscal note on SB 7018 is now $50 million. But HB 1501, the companion bill, contains no funding. Instead, the bill says implementing the low-interest loan program is “contingent upon appropriation of the Legislature.”

Passidomo, though, downplayed the spending reductions that were made to her priority legislation.

“We did work with the House. But when you see the budget, you’ll see there’s funding for a lot of the initiatives that are also going to be in the budget as well. A lot of it will be in the budget,” she said. “I feel really good about it. This is way more than we’ve ever done.”

SB 7016 is touted as a proposal that will increase the state’s health care workforce. Among other things, the bill adds $50 million to expand by 500 the number of medical residency slots to increase the number of physicians in Florida.

It also creates the Training, Education, and Clinicals in Health (TEACH) Funding Program to increase the availability of clinical opportunities, improve the quality of the training sites and promote the clinical training that prepares students to work as qualified and experienced health care professionals. The bill also increases funding for the Florida Reimbursement Assistance for Medical and Dental Education (FRAME) by $30 million.

But bill sponsor Sen. Colleen Burton acknowledged Thursday she didn’t have an estimate on how many new doctors, nurses and other providers the bill would produce.

“That’s a really good question,” Burton said when asked for an estimate. “We anticipate thousands more because we need thousands more .So we’ll be watching them because many elements of this bill have some reporting requirements as well so that will help us measure and see how we are moving forward.”

SB 7016 does not expand Medicaid to childless low-income adults, as federal law allows. However, the bill does create a new health care screening and service grant program administered by the Department of Health (DOH) that Passidomo has touted will help uninsured, low-income residents.

The grants, which will go to nonprofit entities, will fund no-cost health care screenings or services for the general public. The bill requires DOH to maintain a website that directs the general public to events, organizations, and venues where no cost or reduced costs are available. The website will also direct licensed health care practitioners to opportunities to volunteer their services for such screenings and services.

Before passing SB 7016, the Senate tagged on a late-filed amendment from Sen. Travis Hutson that would name the screening program after Passidomo’s parents, Alfonse and Kathleen Cinotti, a move that brought Passidomo to tears.

Meanwhile, the passage of the bill was praised by Senators and industry groups alike.

Longtime lawmaker and SB 7018 sponsor, Sen. Gayle Harrell, said the Live Healthy plan was the most significant health care proposal the Legislature has passed during her lengthy tenure.

“This is my 22nd Session. I have been Chair of many different health care committees over these years. In fact, every year I have sat on a committee if I wasn’t Chair. And I can tell you, this is the most innovative, creative, impactful health care bill I have ever seen,” she said. “Let’s just take a look at what it really is doing: It’s changing the direction of health care. It’s going to make it more open and have more access.”

Florida Association of Managing Entities CEO Natalie K. Kelly said Thursday’s unanimous vote for Live Healthy shows that the Senate is “committed to giving Floridians the health care support they need so they can lead their healthiest and most productive lives. On behalf of Florida’s seven managing entities, we are grateful to the Senate for the measures in this bill that would improve the delivery of and access to behavioral health care services, among other services, for Floridians.”

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