Legislature approves Canadian drug import bill, other health reforms

Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel

Published May 2, 2019


TALLAHASSEE — Floridians could eventually gain access to cheaper Canadian prescription drugs under legislation the state House has sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The GOP-led House voted 93-20 on Monday for the measure, which allows creation of a prescription drug importation program that would have to be approved by the federal government. The bill is a top priority for DeSantis.

U.S. consumers pay some of the highest prescription drug prices in the world, as much as 30% to 190% more than other western countries. Supporters say the bill would give Floridians a chance to enjoy some savings.

Opponents warn of risky counterfeit, contaminated, or ineffective drugs and that the program could prove costly to oversee and regulate.

The bill was one of three high-priority bills cleared the Florida Legislature on Monday, setting the stage for House Speaker Jose Oliva to claim a victory in his effort to revamp the health system.

All three measures were approved in the Senate and went back to the House late in the day and got quick OKs.

The Senate voted 27-13 to approve the prescription drug bill (HB 19).

The bill authorizes the Canadian Prescription Drug Importation Program in the Agency for Health Care Administration and the International Prescription Drug Importation Program in the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

The Canadian Prescription Drug Importation Program would be for state health-care programs, while the international program would be for all state residents.

Neither program can be established without approval from the federal government, which has yet to OK any similar laws in any other state.

Lawmaker also voted to pass a bill (HB 21) that would eliminate the long-controversial “certificate of need” regulatory program for hospitals.

The bill would eliminate the certificate-of-need requirement for new general hospitals and “tertiary services” on July 1. It would repeal a certificate-of-need requirement in 2021 for specialty hospitals, such as children’s hospitals.

Tertiary services include such things as organ transplants and pediatric open-heart surgery and neonatal intensive-care units.
The bill is a top priority for Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican who argues that a more free-market approach would lead to lower costs and greater access to care. The bill, as approved by the Senate, would not eliminate the so-called CON program for nursing homes, hospices or intermediate-care facilities for the developmentally disabled.

And the Legislature approved a bill (HB 23) that would establish a regulatory framework for “telehealth.”

Telehealth, which is also known as telemedicine, involves using the internet and other technology to provide services to patients remotely. Telehealth is not a type of health-care service but a mode to deliver services.