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Lee Health saw gains from the state Legislative session that includes increased funding for training new physicians and improved reimbursement for maternal care.

“It was a very good session for us,” Dr. Larry Antonucci, president and chief executive officer, said at the board of directors meeting Thursday. The legislative session wrapped up March 8.

The publicly-operated Lee Health operates four acute care hospitals with 1,877 beds, a regional children’s hospital and outpatient services. The projected operating revenue budget for 2024 is $3 billion.

The system serves more than one million patients annually. It had 85,000 admissions last year and its emergency rooms saw 276,000 patients. There were 2.6 million outpatient and physician visits.

Here are some key benefits:

  • Lee Health will receive $3.4 million in additional funding for its graduate medical education program with physician residents. Having a residency program helps with filling physician shortages.

  • $5.1 million to improve Medicaid payments for labor and delivery of newborns.

  • $5 million to build out space for graduate medical education.

New policies from “Live Healthy” law

Contained in the “Live Healthy” legislation spearheaded by state Sen. President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, is a requirement that hospitals submit to the state how it plans to assists patients to get medical care without resorting to using the emergency room.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the “Live Healthy” bill into law last week in Bonita Springs, which provides more than $700 million to address health-care provider shortages, improve access to care and attract more physician residents to the state, among other things

Called the “nonemergent care access plans,” the intent is for hospitals to help get patients to a more appropriate setting, like urgent care and primary care clinics rather than the expensive emergency room designed for trauma and acute medical issues like heart attacks and strokes.

More: Gov. Ron DeSantis signs healthcare bills spearheaded by Senate President Kathleen Passidomo

More: Waiting to see a doctor? SWFL hospitals battle shortage in primary care physicians

Often the patients lack access to primary care physicians or won’t go to urgent care clinics.

What hospitals have to be cautious about in developing their plans is the federal law that emergency rooms must treat and stabilize all patients regardless of ability to pay, Mary Mayhew, president and chief executive officer of the Florida Hospital Association, said.

Some hospitals have developed models with urgent care clinics inside the emergency rooms and the billing is at the lower urgent care pricing, she said.

Some patients also know they can get free care in the emergency room by not have to pay before they leave but that is not the case at urgent care settings, said Donna Clarke, chairwoman of the Lee Health board.

The plans will be required starting Jan. 1 to the state health care agency.

Some legislators wanted to require hospitals to contract with clinics for complying with the requirement but that was changed to partnerships, Mayhew said

“There is still a desire for hospitals to partner with (federally supported clinics),” she said.

The Live Healthy law also creates an advanced birthing center designation that will allow them to perform cesarean deliveries, known as C-sections.

Antonucci, of Lee Health, said there was a lot of opposition to allowing birthing centers to perform C-sections because of safely for the mother or infant.

“We could not get across there is no such thing as a low risk C-section,” he said.

The law does enable the state Agency for Health Care Administration to develop additional standards it sees as necessary for patient safety.

This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Session “very good” for Lee Health, includes money for doctor shortage

Read the full article here

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