Passidomo promotes free health screenings, primary care, technology in new legislative package

Passidomo promotes free health screenings, primary care, technology in new legislative package

The Senate president says lawyers advising clients on health care issues should educate themselves on the new benefits

President Kathleen Passidomo

Much like she spearheaded the “Live Local Act” last year, which focused on expanding affordable housing, Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo is now promoting “Live Healthy,” a package of bills scheduled for the upcoming 2024 legislative session that center on increasing access to health care.

In broad strokes, the measures will target growing Florida’s health care workforce, expanding financial eligibility for residents to get treated at low-cost or free clinics for urgent and primary health care needs, emergency diversion, and incentivizing companies to employ new health technology.

As part of this effort, the Senate is proposing $10 million annually for the Department of Health, in part, to give grants to nonprofits seeking to provide additional free or low-cost health screenings and primary care clinics. The money will also be used to create a new portal housed by the agency that will advertise those services as well as ways for physicians and other providers to volunteer for these initiatives.

Passidomo said at a media briefing on December 7 that the Senate’s goal is to not only expand these free or low-cost preventative and primary health services, but to also raise awareness about them, which is why the health department website is needed.

“There are a lot of charitable organizations that do provide certain health care screenings,” Passidomo told reporters at the briefing. “But people don’t know about them. They’re all over.”

The package of legislation doesn’t contemplate expanding Medicaid to provide health insurance to the working poor in Florida. But if lawyers represent clients who have lost or simply don’t have health coverage and need basic primary care, the new state portal could be helpful.

“Legal aid lawyers could go to the Department of Health website and see where the screenings are going to be in their area and when,” Passidomo, an attorney, said. “It’s just a commonsense thing to do.”

Under the legislation, eligibility to get treated at these free or low-cost clinics would increase from 200% of the federal poverty level to 300%. The new eligibility threshold would translate to an annual income of $43,740 for a single person and $90,000 for a family of four, in terms of 2023 dollars.

The measures would also incentivize hospitals, nursing home and assisted living facilities to adopt new health technologies that could especially help elderly clients, who may or may not be low-income.

So, even beyond legal aid clinics, Passidomo said it would be good for other Florida attorneys to educate themselves on how Live Healthy could benefit their clients.

“If I have an estate planning client that is looking for services, and seeking my advice, I could look at Live Healthy and say, ‘Well, you know, there are nursing homes over here that are using certain technology,’” Passidomo said. She gave an example of a Lee County assisted living facility that sensed when residents fell, or stopped opening the refrigerator, and notified the front desk for someone to check on them.

Passidomo added: “If I represented a hospital, I could give them advice on how they can implement some of the programs that we have.”

The two main vehicles for Live Healthy are SPB 7016 and SPB 7018, the details of which were slated to be filed on December 8. They will be heard in the Senate Committee on Health Policy on December 12.

Sen. Colleen Burton, chair of the Committee on Health Policy, will carry SPB 7016, which will focus on growing the medical workforce and expanding access, and has a $796.7 million appropriation.

Sen. Gayle Harrell, chair of the Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services, will lead the effort on SPB 7018, which will focus on health technology, and has a $76.25 million appropriation.

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