Committee Week 2 updates
*Updated to include links to view or listen to the balance billing debate
Week of October 14-18
Florida Senate Activity
Florida House Activity
Health & Human Services Committee
Presentation on Policy Considerations for Recreational Marijuana
Bertha Madras, PhD, Professor of Psychobiology, Harvard Medical School
Health Market Reform
Implementation Update on HB 221 (2016) related to Balance Billing, by
Craig Wright, Deputy Insurance Commissioner, Office of Insurance Regulation
You should listen to the committee!
Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee
Florida KidCare Overview
News from the Week
YOUTH VAPING INCREASES AS TOBACCO USE DROPS
The use of tobacco products among Florida’s youth is at an all-time low, but that good news is offset by significant increases in the number of children who vape, a state advisory panel was told Thursday.
The results of the 2019 Florida Youth Tobacco survey of 10,844 high-school and middle-school students showed that 1.5 percent reported smoking tobacco cigarettes in the previous 30 days. But 16.6 percent reported using electronic-cigarette products in the previous 30 days, which was more than a 5 percent increase over the prior year. 
“I’m almost distraught looking at this information,” Jim Howell, a former Department of Health secretary who is a member of the Tobacco Education and Use Prevention Advisory Council, said Thursday after hearing the survey results.…
Marijuana MADNESS? OR SOMETHING MORE MELLOW?
A day after a House committee heard a Reefer Madness-style presentation about recreational marijuana from a Harvard psychobiologist, a separate health panel received a more-tempered perspective from Colorado’s former cannabis czar. 
Andrew Freedman, a Harvard Law School graduate who’s now a consultant, gave the House Health Quality Subcommittee the down-low Wednesday about the impact on Colorado of the legalization of marijuana, along with trends in other states that have authorized recreational use.
Freedman served as Colorado’s first director of the Office of Cannabis Coordination, overseeing the state’s move from medicinal to recreational marijuana.…
Sending a signal that health care spending could be targeted for reductions next year, a House health panel is going to identify up to $624 million for possible “reprioritization.” Health Care Appropriations Chairwoman MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta, told The News Service of Florida the “reprioritization” exercise doesn’t mean that there will be $624 million in spending reductions across the six health care-related agencies that fall under her watch. “It’s not a hard-and-fast number for me,” Magar said. “We’re just looking to really make sure we are spending taxpayer dollars efficiently, effectively, wisely and appropriately.”...
FIVE QUESTIONS FOR WILTON SIMPSON
Family man. Business man. Policy leader.
Those are the words Sen. Wilton Simpson’s website uses to describe the lawmaker, who on Tuesday will be tapped by his colleagues as the Senate’s next president.
The 53-year-old Trilby Republican was elected to the Senate in 2012 and served as majority leader in 2016 and 2017.
Simpson, a Florida native who has two adult children and two grandchildren, is a Pasco County general contractor who owns an egg farm as well as an environmental remediation company that’s one of the largest in the southeastern U.S.
Simpson, a graduate of what is now Pasco-Hernando State College, will take over the gavel from President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, following the 2020 elections.
The News Service of Florida has five questions for Wilton Simpson:…
COURT EYES MEDICAL MALPRACTICE ‘CRISIS’
I n a case stemming from a woman’s lung-cancer death, an appeals court Friday urged the Florida Supreme Court to look again at whether the state has a medical-malpractice insurance “crisis” that justifies limiting damages in certain lawsuits.
The move by a panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal came in a Lee County lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state law that prevented the adult children of Ramona Reyes from recovering non-economic damages --- commonly known as pain and suffering damages --- in her death.
The law bars adult children from recovering non-economic damages for wrongful death in medical-malpractice cases, though adult children are able to seek such damages for wrongful death in other types of lawsuits. That legal difference led attorneys for Reyes’ adult children, Sandra Santiago and Norma Caceres, to argue that the medical-malpractice law violates constitutional equal-protection rights.…
Pointing to a “growing epidemic” of vaping by teens, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody on Wednesday said her office will investigate more than 20 companies to look at how they are marketing and selling electronic cigarettes.
“It’s illegal under Florida law to sell these products to anyone under 18, yet vaping among our youth is out of control,” Moody said in a video announcing the investigation.
Moody’s office released the names of  22 companies  that will be part of the investigation, with the list including a mixture of Florida-based and out-of-state firms. Among others, the list includes vaping-industry giant JUUL Labs.
The industry has drawn heavy scrutiny this year, in part because of widespread use by minors of nicotine-delivering electronic cigarettes. A  report  released in April by the Florida Department of Health indicated that about 25 percent of high-school students in 2018 said they vaped.
Florida lawmakers and then-Gov. Rick Scott in 2014 approved a law that banned the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors, similar to the longstanding ban on sales of tobacco products to people under 18.
But Moody said Wednesday that the investigation will delve into whether companies are marketing the products to teens.
“Our investigation will focus on the marketing practices and online sales strategies of these companies to determine if they have intentionally targeted minors, tempting them to vape. We will seek information to determine if the companies can support their marketing and health claims,” she said.
Amid the scrutiny of the industry, the San Francisco-based JUUL this year has announced efforts to prevent youths from vaping. For example, it released a  plan  in August to work with retailers to tighten practices for verifying the ages of people buying JUUL products and to limit the amounts of products that can be purchased by adult customers.
In addition to concerns about minors using electronic cigarettes, health officials across the country are probing lung injuries --- some fatal --- that are being attributed to vaping. 
Florida had 68 reported vaping-related illnesses as of Saturday, with the number increasing by 16 cases last week, according to the state Department of Health. Florida has reported one death linked to vaping.
The nation had 1,299 lung-injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarettes or vaping as of Oct. 8, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week. The cases came from 49 states, the District of Columbia, and a U.S. territory. 
Information suggests that vaping products containing THC, “particularly those obtained off the street or from other informal sources are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the euphoria-causing chemical in marijuana.
More than half of the state’s medical-marijuana approvals for patients over a six-month period came from 89 doctors. The statistic recently alarmed members of a medical review board who worry medical marijuana could be replacing the state’s pill mills as a public-health problem. But state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith sees things differently. The Orlando Democrat believes the data is a reflection of a stigma in the medical community that marijuana is not a viable alternative to prescription drugs. When patients find physicians willing to certify their need for medical marijuana, Smith said patients flock to the doctors...…
STATE TARGETS SEVEN COUNTIES TO COMBAT HIV
More than $490,000 is being doled out to seven Florida counties as part of a national effort to try to eradicate HIV and AIDS in the next 10 years.
The funding is made possible as part of the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative, which was announced by the Trump administration this year. Money became available for counties to spend Oct. 1.
“For this plan to succeed, we want to engage the help of every Floridian,” Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, flanked by Department of Health Secretary Scott Rivkees and others, said during an announcement Tuesday in Tallahassee.…