A major focus of every Florida legislative session, and the only thing lawmakers are required to do, is finalize the state budget. Every year, state lawmakers decide what services to maintain, expand, or end. Florida’s budget year starts every July, giving lawmakers the 60-day Spring legislative session to decide what our priorities will be for the upcoming year.
State law requires Governor Ron DeSantis (R-Jacksonville) to submit a budget recommendation to state representatives and senators at least 30 days before the beginning of the legislative session. Since the start of session on March 5, the Florida House and Senate have begun to craft what will become the state's budget.
Prior to his election, Governor DeSantis was fairly quiet on health care, but he did suggest eliminating insurance companies in primary care to decrease costs. He was also opposed to increased spending on Medicaid. However, since taking office, his health care agenda is coming into focus with proposals on prescription drugs and transparency.
The governor released his proposed budget in February. It held health care funding steady with minimal cuts for Medicaid. The budget calls for $91.3 billion of overall spending, an increase from the $88.37 allotted from the previous year. The budget also includes $10 million to go towards mental health care but includes permanently cutting Medicaid retroactive eligibility.
Besides the budget, the Governor has also begun to put his support behind different legislative ideas. He has proposed enabling the state to bring in medications from Canada in bulk to combat high costs of prescription drugs. This ambitious plan would take federal approval but could be a big help to Floridians.
Governor Desantis is also supporting publicly posting hospital prices and insurance rates online for state residents to use. The belief is that this will increase competition and drive down pricing, but this is only an indirect attempt to improve access to care for communities facing high disparities. Furthermore, the new governor has proposed more than $1 million to provide to health research and surveillance to address opioid-related illnesses.
Health care in the legislature is subject to a lot of moving pieces and competing priorities. While the Governor is only one (very important) piece, Floridians must continue to keep him and all of our officials accountable.
Stay informed this legislative session using this guide for health care voters and this listing of health care bills at www.healthyfla.org/flsession.