Disagreement between two doctors in the Florida House over health policy flared up Tuesday, derailing a bill that would expand pharmacists’ role in health care.
The House Health Quality subcommittee was considering a proposal (H.B. 527) by Rep. Ed Narain, D-Tampa, to let pharmacists inject prescribed medications if instructed by a doctor. It had been put on the agenda by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park, an emergency room doctor who serves rural patients.
Rep. Julio Gonzalez, R-Venice, an orthopedic surgeon, is not much of a fan.
Gonzalez started asking pointed questions of Narain — incidentally, not a doctor — about what kinds of injections he believed pharmacists should be allowed to give patients. Other issues cropped up: what the nature of a pharmacist’s relationship with a doctor should be, whether the bill was appropriate at all.
Several times, Pigman stopped the meeting so lawmakers could quickly write proposed amendments and discuss them with one another, an unusual scene in the state Capitol, where lawmakers’ votes are courted by advocates and lobbyists and where few bills are offered up for a hearing without a majority of committee members ready to vote in favor.
After about an hour, the committee was ready to vote, and Pigman sounded exasperated as he made a plea.
“If we had physicians to see patients, we wouldn’t be here today,” he said. “We wouldn’t be talking about legislation.”
But Gonzalez prevailed, at least in preventing a vote Tuesday, and the bill has been postponed. Pigman later tweeted that "we'll bring it back," a sign that behind-the-scenes negotiations will likely take place to make the bill something a majority of committee members will support.
It’s not the first sign of disagreement between Gonzalez and Pigman, two of just three doctors in the Florida House. Gonzalez and Rep. Fred Costello, R-Ormond Beach, laid out a health care plan in October, which Gonzalez described to the Times/Herald as an eight-year road map for what he would like to see accomplished in the world of health policy during his time in the House.