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2018 Legislative Session Delivers Mixed Bag for Physicians

Fraser Cobbe

Orange County Medical Society

Seminole County Medical Society

The dust is settling on the 2018 Florida Legislative Session which came to a close on March 4th. The 2018 Session was certainly a wild ride given the major challenges facing our state and the tragic events that dominated debate over the final weeks. The coming months will provide an opportunity for all stakeholders and impacted parties to digest the outcome of the session. At first glance for physicians it appears to be a mixed bag.

There were 200 total bills that passed during the Legislative Session and of those 21 were related to health care. Our organization will be covering many of these bills that will have an impact on our members and patients over the coming weeks.

Two of the more significant bills that passed are HB 21 Controlled Substances and HB 37 Direct Primary Care Agreements.

The Controlled Substances legislation, which takes effect July 1, is the latest attempt by the Legislature to address the opioid crisis that is gripping communities across the country. Almost every practicing physician will be impacted by this legislation in some manner. All physicians registered with the DEA to prescribe controlled substances will have to take a 2-hour educational course by January 31, 2019. (And repeat that course every time they renew their license). Before anyone prescribes a controlled substance, they will be mandated to check the patient's history on the Prescription Drug Monitoring Database. And if you treat acute pain, you will have to pay attention to the strict limitations on the number of days you can prescribe and prepare for the Board of Medicine to establish new rules governing the standards of care for the use of controlled substances.

Organized Medicine will play an important role in the coming months making sure that physicians are aware of HB 21 and are in compliance with the new law. The OCMS and SCMS will be providing a number of educational opportunities for our members throughout the community and will be prepared to try to address any implications this law has on our patients.

The Direct Primary Care Legislation, also taking effect July 1, was an exercise in persistence to finally see it over the line after years of falling just short. This legislation will provide lower cost primary care alternatives for patients and business owners as well as much needed regulatory relief for physicians that want to participate. The bill makes it clear that subscription style contracts for primary care services between a physician and patient are not an insurance product and therefore not regulated as such. The legislation articulates what core elements must exist in a contract between a physician and patient including what services the physician will provide in return for the monthly fee. Participating physicians accept that monthly fee as payment in full for those contracted services and they do not bill insurance. It is important to note that these agreements are limited to primary care services and patients will still need to consider their options for catastrophic coverage. This innovation has been gaining in popularity across the country and doctors and patients in Florida should now have expanded opportunities to take advantage.

Both of these bills still must be signed into law by the Governor, but we do not anticipate any major road blocks.

Our organizations are committed to assisting our members and your patients with understanding all of the new health care laws that emerged from this Session. We are also committed to doubling-down on those pro-patient measures that failed to pass this year.



 
 
 
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