By FCA Government Affairs Director Jack Hebert and General Counsel Kim Driggers
Including a Closer Look at the FCA’s Proactive Agenda
Tallahassee – Tuesday marked the start of Florida’s annual 60-day lawmaking session amid the usual revelry of opening day ceremonies dictated by tradition. Speeches, spouses, flowers, and former legislators all filled the House chamber as the three branches of state government came together to listen to the Governor’s annual State-of-the-State address.
Taking a break from his presidential run currently courting Iowa’s voters before next week’s caucuses, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ address was largely devoted to highlights of his administration’s past victories and less about pitching his usual “wish list” of ideas he wants lawmakers to consider. “My message is simple: Stay the course,” he told lawmakers and guests. “The state of our State is strong. Let’s keep doing what works.”
Tuesday also marked the deadline for the introduction of bills proposed by individual Reps and Senators. Moving forward, any new proposals generally only come in the form of committee bills introduced and approved by the standing committees in both the House or Senate.
Much of the legislature’s work, particularly in the early weeks of the session, happens at the committee level. There proposed bills are heard, public testimony is offered, and amendments may be adopted, all before a final favorable vote is necessary to move the issue to the next committee — or finally to the full floor of each chamber for debate and the body’s final up-or-down vote.
Following are the highlights of the key bills and issues your FCA Lobby Team helped bring forward this session which we will be closely monitoring and working on in the coming weeks. Be sure to watch for your Frontline Tallahassee report each week providing you with the latest action on these important issues in your capitol during this year’s Session.
The FCA’s Proactive Agenda for 2024
A New Physician Lien Law
Currently, Florida has no physician lien law for negligence claims. These bills would provide accountability and open communication at the end of a personal injury case. If there is a shortage of settlement funds to pay the physician bills, the lien law would require an accounting of the total amount of the settlement or judgment, the amount of all other liens, the percentage of each lien paid, the total disbursements made to lienholders, and the total amount of attorney’s fees. All other chiropractic groups vocalized favorable support for this bill during the Board of Chiropractic Medicine’s December 14, 2023, meeting. (SB 1592 by Berman, HB 1515 by Holcomb.)
Dry Needling and Licensure for DC Graduates with Foreign Bachelor’s Degrees
The bills provide statutory clarity in the scope of practice for chiropractic physicians already trained and providing patients with dry needling therapy. The bills also fix a recently discovered problem for chiropractic graduates awaiting Florida licensure by changing an archaic statute that requires applicants for licensure to have received a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. college or university – after having graduated from chiropractic college and having passed the National board exam. A minor change will save students time and additional costs while maintaining high standards. All other chiropractic groups vocalized favorable support for this bill during the Board of Chiropractic Medicine’s December 14, 2023, Meeting. (SB 1474 by Trumbull, HB 1063 by Hunschofsky.)
A First-Step Fix to the Auto Insurers’ Cottage Industry of Going After DCs for PIP Clawbacks
The bills provide an initial step of bringing transparency to the auto insurers’ scheme of targeting DCs after five or more years to claw back PIP claims under the threat of a Federal lawsuit for fraudulent behavior. Currently, the millions of dollars in auto insurer claw-backs are not reported to the Office of Insurance Regulation so that the recoveries are considered in the insureds’ rate base for auto premiums. These bills would require the insurers to report the recovered funds to OIR who would then be required to consider the recoveries in their rate filing. The bills also codify existing law that the 20% copayment in PIP can be paid at the end of a patient’s claim rather than at each patient visit. The auto insurers are using a misplaced interpretation of the law as part of their threat of fraud to bring the clawback lawsuits. All other chiropractic groups vocalized favorable support for this bill during the Board of Chiropractic Medicine’s December 14, 2023, Meeting. (SB 1024 by Grall, HB 731 by Botana.)
FCA Defensive Bills
Preserving PIP/No-fault Auto Insurance
For at least their last nine sessions lawmakers have debated the effort to repeal and replace Florida’s No-fault law led by trial lawyers. While the 2021 effort saw final passage, it was later vetoed by Gov. DeSantis citing, in part, an OIR study forecasting significant premium hikes for millions of drivers and a rise in uninsured driving. PIP benefits are often the only medical benefits an injured victim has to treat injuries without paying extreme deductibles and co-pays. This year’s bills again attempt to repeal Florida’s minority position with its No-Fault law in place of the majority standard of a mandatory bodily injury system. (SB 464 by Grall, HB 653 by Alvarez.)
Other Issues of Importance
PIP Prevailing Party Attorney’s Fees
This year’s bills also include an effort to recover attorney’s fees for the prevailing party (versus one-way attorney’s fees) when a party is improperly denied benefits. SB 1782 by Martin, HB 1651 by Snyder
Live Healthy Initiative Seeks Licensure by Endorsement and Interstate Mobility
A top priority this year of leaders in both the House and Senate, these bills are aimed at bolstering Florida’s healthcare workforce and include among their other provisions allowing out-of-state physicians (including chiropractors) with a “similar scope of practice” as determined by the board who have practiced two years (HB 1549) or three years (SB 1600 and HB 1381) without disciplinary history and other minor requirements, to be able to practice in Florida within seven days (HB 1549) or 15 days (SB 1600 and HB 1381) of application. HB 1549 is part of a 300+ page bill supporting Senate President Passidomo’s Live Healthy initiative and a priority of obtaining a growing and innovative healthcare workforce to keep up with the growing Florida population by removing regulatory barriers of licensure and allowing more access to the healthcare workforce. It is a 580-million-dollar package that is backed by legislative leadership. HB 1549 passed its first committee of reference in the House this morning by an 11-0 vote. (HB 1549 by Grant, SB 1600 by Collins, HB 1381 by Alvarez.)