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State Lawmakers Continue to Tackle Health Care Workforce Shortage

February 06, 2024 (7 min read)

We told you at the end of December that the nationwide healthcare workforce crisis would remain a top issue for state lawmakers in 2024.

And indeed it is, as evidenced by a spate of new bills addressing the issue pending in state capitols across the country.

States Approach Issue from Several Angles

As of Feb. 1 there were over 100 measures referring to health care workforce pending in 25 states, according to the LexisNexis® State Net® legislative tracking system. They include:

  • Arizona (HB 2171), which would create the Arizona health care workforce advisory council and Arizona health care workforce investment fund “to address healthcare workforce shortages in the state.”
  • New York (AB 8368), which would create the “Take a Look” medical and dental workforce employment “tour program” to market health care workforce career opportunities throughout the Empire State.
  • Oklahoma SB 1308, which would create an income tax credit for people who conduct preceptorship rotations.
  • Georgia HB 872, which would expand the state’s “service cancelable loan program” for medical providers in underserved areas to include dental students.

Health Care Workforce Measures Pending in Half of States

As of Feb. 1 more than 100 measures referring to health care workforce were pending in 25 states, according to LexisNexis State Net’s legislative tracking system. They include a pair of fast-moving bills in Florida (SB 7016 and SB 7018) that would allocate about $800 million for various workforce development programs.  

Health Care Workforce Development Top Priority in Florida

Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R) made it clear in November that her focus for the 2024 session would be “growing Florida’s health care workforce, increasing access, and incentivizing innovation, so Floridians can have more options and opportunities to live healthy.” In December she and other members of the Senate unveiled a package of legislation, the “Live Healthy” proposal, to accomplish those aims.

“Live Healthy is a robust package of policy enhancements and strategic investments that will help make sure Florida’s health care workforce is growing at the same pace as the rest of our great state,” stated a press release announcing the legislative plan.

It went on to say: “Live Healthy will expand Florida’s health care workforce with new opportunities for education, training and retention. This includes enhancing partnerships between our hospitals and Florida colleges and universities that train health care workers, as well as more residency slots and creative loan repayment options that drive providers to underserved areas. We want to make sure our medical school graduates stay in Florida, and also attract more out-of-state residents—not only for their residencies, but to build their lives and medical practices right here in our communities. We are also funding provider increases that incentivize our health care workers to continue serving in needed fields like mental health, labor and delivery, and helping Floridians with disabilities.”

Specific legislative initiatives in the plan include:

  • SB 1600, which would create a streamlined pathway to medical licensure for out-of-state providers who move to the state.
  • SB 330, which would create a new category of teaching hospitals for behavioral health.
  • SB 1758, which would expand services to residents with disabilities. 
  • SB 1640, which would increase health care price transparency.

At this point in the session, however, the Live Healthy measures that have drawn the most attention are SB 7016 and SB 7018. Together those measures would allocate about $800 million for a variety of programs.

SB 7018 would create a “Health Care Innovation Council” to explore new technologies, delivery models and other innovative approaches to the state’s health care workforce challenges and create a revolving loan program for implementing innovative solutions.

SB 7016 would direct the bulk of the $800 million in spending, mostly toward increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates for providers who offer preventative care or serve vulnerable populations. The measure would also open up the state’s medical student loan repayment program to mental health providers and increase award amounts for all qualifying providers to incentivize them to stay in the state after completing their education or residency, as well as expand the state’s dental student loan repayment program to include private practices in underserved areas that serve Medicaid patients.

Attorney Rodney Miller of the Practical Guidance team for LexisNexis® said one of the main goals of legislative efforts like the one in Florida is to get more health care professionals in rural and remote areas. He said it’s increasingly hard to find medical professionals living or willing to move outside of metropolitan areas.

The health care workforce is “a concern across the board, but less of a concern in metropolitan areas,” he said.

He said one carrot governments and employers are using to get professionals to relocate is debt repayment.

“This is an access to care issue,” he said.

SB 7016 and SB 7018 have already been passed by Florida’s Senate and are now in the House. Passidomo has said she is “in sync” with House Speaker Paul Renner (D), and he expressed support for the Live Fully package in his Opening Day comments.

So it may not take long to find out if the Sunshine State’s big investment in its health care workforce is going to happen and whether it will spur other states to take similar action.

—By SNCJ Correspondent BRIAN JOSEPH

Visit our webpage to connect with a LexisNexis® State Net® representative and learn how the State Net legislative and regulatory tracking service can help you identify, track, analyze and report on relevant legislative and regulatory developments. 


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