Senate would delay Medically Needy cutback
By Times staff writer, Times wires
The Senate unanimously agreed Wednesday to delay a May 1 cut in a state health care program for severely ill Floridians who have exhausted their own health insurance benefits.
The Senate's decision to funnel $8-million to the state's Medically Needy program would buy the state -- and the 27,000 sick program participants -- 60 days to figure out what to do.
Last year lawmakers cut the program but delayed the cuts until May 1, when participants will be required to spend all but $450 of their monthly income on their health care before the state will cover their bills.
Many Medically Needy participants have said they cannot afford to live on just $450 a month and will be forced to drop out of the program and lose their prescription drugs.
For some of those, such as dialysis patients and organ transplant recipients, going without medications means, ultimately, hospitalizations or death.
The House has not yet taken up the Senate's proposal, but Speaker Johnnie Byrd said Wednesday he wants to do all he can for the program participants.
-- ALISA ULFERTS
No-fault auto insurance reforms near House vote
The no-fault auto insurance reform bill took an unscheduled detour to the House State Administration Committee Wednesday but emerged with relatively minor changes.
The bill (HB 1819) was amended to require no-fault to be automatically abolished in 2005 unless the Legislature votes to keep it. The committee then sent the bill to the full House for action.
Under no-fault, drivers must insure themselves against injuries from auto accidents.
Speaker Johnnie Byrd, R-Plant City, sent the bill to the committee after some House members expressed concerns about the version approved in another committee Tuesday.
The House bill is considered more favorable to trial lawyers than the bill (SB 1202) pending in the Senate.
Vince Rio, lobbyist for State Farm Insurance Co., said the House bill addresses only the problem of fraud, while the Senate bill also deals with excessive litigation, unnecessary medical treatments and overcharges by health care providers.
Counterfeit drug issue may not reach a vote
Legislation that would help Florida authorities crack down on the distribution of bogus prescription drugs is among those still not heard on the floor as lawmakers head into the final days of the 2003 session.
The proposals (SB 2312 and HB 1481) would create tougher penalties and fines for drug wholesalers and retailers guilty of selling diluted or misidentified drugs. They would also give the Department of Health greater authority in its inspection of drug wholesalers and require a sales history that shows everyone who handled a drug since it left the manufacturer.
The Pharmaceutical Distributors Association opposes legislation that would add paperwork.
With lawmakers scheduled to complete their work on May 2, the proposals face the prospect of becoming lost in the hectic final days of the legislative session. The bills are ready to be considered by their respective chambers but leaders have not said when.
If passed and signed by Gov. Jeb Bush, the tougher law would take effect July 1.
Columbia would join Challenger on auto tag
The Senate unanimously passed and sent to Gov. Jeb Bush a bill adding the space shuttle Columbia's name to the popular Challenger license plate.
The tag, which costs $25 a year besides the regular fee, was created in 1987 to memorialize the astronauts killed when the Challenger blew up in 1986.
The bill (HB 1155) adds the Columbia's name to the tag to honor the seven astronauts who died when that shuttle broke up over Texas Feb. 1.
Assurances for military in housing, deployment
The Senate passed a bill aimed at making life easier for the military in Florida.
The bill (SB 1098) prohibits discrimination against military personnel in housing, and allows military men and women to break rental leases and receive refunds of auto insurance premiums when they are deployed.
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From the Times state desk
From the state wire