Senator accuses FMA of being a greedy organization that puts money over patients
April 04, 2011 By: Christine Jordan Sexton
Sen. Mike Bennett on Monday lashed out at the Florida Medical Association, calling it a "greedy" group whose political agenda was about ensuring doctors salaries, not improving access to health care.
"In the state of Florida, we have an organization that is so greedy it would deny our constituents, your people at home, an opportunity to have excellent health care," he said.
The remarks came after Bennett unsuccessfully tried to amend a FMA priority bill on medical malpractice to include a "scope of practice" expansion for optometrists and advanced registered nurse practitioners that the doctors group opposes. The bill is filed by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, and is similar but not identical to HB 479, filed by Rep. Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee. The Senate measure, SB 1590, would among other things require expert witnesses used in medical malpractice cases to be licensed in the state of Florida.
The FMA generally opposes any scope of practice expansion. Bennett said by including the measure on a highly sought after bill, it was a "one time opportunity" it for the state of Florida to save $200 million annually by allowing health care practitioners broader authority under their licensing statutes. Bennett's amendment would have allowed optometrists and advanced nurse practitioners to prescribe drugs that they are not allowed to prescribe.
Sen. Don Gatez Gaetz, R-Destin, called a point of order saying the amendment broadened the medical malpractice bill to licensure and Medicaid requirements. Committee chairman Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, ruled that Gaetz's point was well taken, although he told Bennett that he agreed with the purpose of the amendment and reminded Bennett that his ruling could be challenged.
Bennett moved that the bill be temporarily passed so he could challenge Garcia's ruling, but Gaetz objected. Garcia then called a voice vote on whether action on the bill should be deferred. The committee voted to vote on the bill. It ultimately passed by a 9-3 vote.
In an e-mail to the Florida Tribune, FMA Executive Vice President Tim Stapleton said the "scope of practice" expansions for optometrists and registered nurse practitioners "would endanger patient safety and compromise quality of care."
Stapleton said Bennett's "choice of words" to describe the FMA "was very unfortunate."
Bennett said that what he was trying to accomplish with his amendment is allowable in other states, and people aren't dying in the streets as a result.
"The FMA, the doctors, are greedy," said Bennett. "They want to continue to be able to double bill, they want to be able to continue to restrict access to health care for greed."
Originally published in the Florida Current - exclusively distributed via Lobbytools - Florida's Premiere Legislative and Media Monitoring Service.