Florida Senate Proposes State Funding for Healthcare Innovation

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A series of bills called the Live Health package includes the creation of a Health Care Innovation Council that would fund new technologies and programs, as well as state support for the CMS Hospital at Home waiver program.

Florida lawmakers want to make healthcare innovation a state strategy.

The Sunshine State’s Senate President has unveiled a series of bills, called the Live Health package, that includes a proposal to create a “Health Care Innovation Council.” The 15-member council, located within the Florida Department of Health, would oversee a revolving $75 million loan program to spur healthcare innovation within the state.

The proposal highlights the challenges faced by healthcare organizations across the country in balancing innovation with the bottom line. Many health systems are struggling to stay in the black, and have little money set aside for new technologies or strategies, yet they’re facing soaring costs, a growing workforce shortage, and competition from disruptors like Amazon, Google, Best Buy, and Walgreens that aims to siphon away patients.

“Free-market principles show us that the private sector can innovate in ways government could never imagine,” State Senator Gayle Harrell, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services, said in a press release issued by Senate President Kathleen Passidomo last week. “What government can do is facilitate the exploration and implementation of innovative technologies and delivery models that increase efficiency, reduce strain on the healthcare workforce, improve patient outcomes, expand public access to care, and reduce costs for patients and taxpayers without impacting the quality of patient care.”

“Our Health Care Innovation Council will convene experts on the delivery of healthcare to examine solutions to improve the delivery and quality of healthcare in our state and develop a loan program to support implementation of innovative solutions,” she added.

[See also: Lake Nona’s WHIT House Brings Healthcare Innovation Into the Home of the Future.]

Supporters called the bill the first in the country to enable state funding and management of healthcare innovation. Some critics have said the bill would tie that innovation to state-sponsored programs and goals, raising the specter of political influence.

In all, the Live Health package calls for almost $900 million in state spending to address a number of healthcare issues, from workforce shortages to soaring costs. More than 11% of the state’s residents don’t have insurance, the fifth highest number in the country.

Among other things, the plan would encourage health systems to explore alternate care settings for patients who show up in the Emergency Room with non-urgent care needs and urge patients to set up a “medical home” to cut back on non-essential ER visits. Those strategies could spur the development of mobile integrated health (MIH) and community paramedicine programs.

Also, the plan requires the state Agency for Health Care Administration to pave the way for hospitals and health systems to qualify for the Acute Hospital at Home program overseen by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Close to 300 health systems nationwide are taking advantage of CMS waivers that enable such programs to be reimbursed by Medicare. The program requires hospitals to follow a strict set of guidelines, as well as alignment with state guidelines.

The Florida Senate’s Health Policy Committee will take up the proposed bills next week, according to Passimodo’s office.

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, Telehealth, Supply Chain and Pharma for HealthLeaders.

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