Florida Senate passes bills seeking to expand health care availability

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida will seek to streamline regulations and offer incentives to help make health care more accessible under two bills unanimously passed by the Senate, votes that quickly pushed forward Republican Senate President Kathleen Passidomo's top session priority.

The bills passed Thursday would make it easier for foreign doctors and out-of-state health care workers to relocate to Florida and would create loan programs and other incentives to attract health care providers to underserved rural areas. They also seek to reduce demand at emergency rooms by strengthening hospitals' partnerships with urgent care centers.

Republican Senate Health Policy Committee Chair Colleen Burton said Florida is growing by 300,000 people a year, but the influx of new doctors and nurses isn't keeping up.

“We have a city's worth of new Floridians every year and there's not a proportionate number of health care providers,” she said.

The bill still needs House approval.