2024 Florida Legislative Session Update: 1199SEIU Members Fight For Bills To Improve Healthcare

February 22, 2024

Lobby Tallahassee Jackie Wheeler, We the people rotunda, 2-2024.jpegAs the 2024 Florida Legislative Session moves into its final stages, caregivers with 1199SEIU continue to strongly advocate for bills that would improve conditions for healthcare workers and their patients at nursing homes and hospitals across the state.

The phone calls, letters and lobby visits to Tallahassee are critical as a severe staffing and retention crisis in Florida healthcare facilities puts patients, healthcare workers and our communities at risk.

This public health crisis has been growing for years, and greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Short-staffing, low pay, wage inequities and other issues inside facilities jeopardize care and those who provide it, while the nursing home and hospital industries hoard billions in profits.

Consulate worker, Amy Runkle.jpg“Tallahassee lawmakers need to know what really happens in our healthcare facilities,” says 1199SEIU member leader Amy Runkle, a Certified Nursing Assistant who has been an active advocate for many years on behalf of her patients and coworkers. “We’re the experts and the ones of the front lines who can share our stories and try to convince them to pass good laws for Floridians.”  

Specific bills caregivers are supporting in 2024 include the Florida Patient Protection Act (SB 376/HB 695) which would:

  1. Require healthcare facilities to implement staffing plans for RNs and define RN staffing ratios.
  2. Give AHCA rulemaking authority to implement staffing ratios for other direct care staff based upon patient acuity. 
  3. Provide healthcare workers whistleblower protections, the right to refuse assignments, forced overtime protection and protection from retaliation for reporting conditions or refusing assignments.
  4. Give collective bargaining agreements with more strict staffing ratios pre-emption over the law.

And the Florida Healthcare Transparency Bill (SB 952/HB 891) which would:

  1. Require nursing home facilities to report common ownership to the state that will be posted on an AHCA online dashboard. Common ownership is the industry’s method of setting up related corporate entities often to help hide profits and dodge liability.   
  2. Increase the percentage of nursing home Medicaid payments that must go to direct care workers. 
  3. Require nursing homes to report on the success and use of 2022 legislation that allowed PCA (personal care attendant) hours to count toward direct care minimums previously required to be conducted by CNAs (certified nursing assistants).
  4. Add quality metrics to the base nursing home Medicaid payment rate that would include retention of direct care employees.

 The transparency bill has received overwhelming bi-partisan support so far in the Florida House, although it has not been scheduled for a committee hearing yet in the Florida Senate.

“This is very strong and beneficial legislation for nursing home patients, their families and their caregiving teams,” said Coy Jones, 1199SEIU Florida Political Director.  “It would require greater accountability and transparency, and better working conditions and quality of care for those who deserve and need it the most.  Thanks to all of our members, leaders, coalition partners and legislators – Republican and Democrat alike – who have stepped up to support this important effort. We’ll continue to fight hard this year and beyond until these are signed laws.”

Healthcare workers and allies also are supportive of the SB 7016 Live Health Act which is designed to grow Florida’s healthcare workforce, increase access and incentivize innovation.

The 2024 Florida Legislative Session closes on March 8. To participate in lobbying or become a Member Political Organizer, contact Jason Morales (jason.morales@1199.org) or Tarah Reppert (tarah.reppert@1199).