Abortion Language Could Torpedo Bill
While language added to a bill sought by the Agency for Health Care Administration has drawn considerable attention over the abortion add-ons and raised calls for – and the possibility of - a veto, little attention has been paid to what the underlying measure that’s now in danger actually is.
The bill (HB 1143) focused mainly on deregulation policies that would have canceled duplicative inspections for long term care providers and eliminated monthly reporting of liability claims –efficiency measures providers say they need in an economic downturn.
“It's a very important bill,” said AHCA spokeswoman Tiffany Vause.
But the crux of the bill got brushed aside when in the last week of the 2010 session, lawmakers tacked on controversial language that would require most women to hear a description of an ultrasound before having an abortion. The language set off a highly emotional debate in both legislative chambers, but it ultimately passed and was sent to the governor.
Gov. Charlie Crist has hinted he may veto the measure, telling reporters he had concerns about it. His office has received 2,291 E-mails and 317 phone calls urging him to veto the bill, and 262 E-mails and 32 phone calls asking him to sign the measure.
"I don't want it to be something that's too intrusive on the privacy of women," he said earlier this week.
Several Democratic lawmakers have also called on Crist to veto the legislation because of the abortion language, sending public letters to the governor with their veto pleas.
AHCA and health care providers around the state now wait to see what happens to the legislation they lobbied for throughout the session. The Florida Health Care Association, which represents long term care providers, wrote in its legislative wrap-up that it had been “vigorously advocating” for HB 1143.
Neither AHCA or the Florida Health Care Association proposed the addition of the abortion language, which may now ultimately jeopardize what had previously been thought of as a rather politically innocuous measure.
The measure is basically a deregulation proposal, said Molly McKinstry, a legislative analyst for AHCA.
The bill makes changes to licensing standards for care facilities, eliminates a requirement that license renewals be delivered by certified mail, and enhances electronic publication of reports. It reduces duplicative inspections and provides some flexibility for nursing homes to provide respite services.
It also requires facilities facing foreclosure or bankruptcy to report that to the agency.
McKinstry said the agency had been working with providers to ease some regulations during the economic downturn. Lawmakers passed a measure last year with other regulatory reductions, but this was the agency's attempt to do more.
“We tried to identify ways to make the regulatory burden a little lighter on them,” she said.