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House restores Miami Children's maternity unit, sends back to Senate

The Senate now has a tough decision to make.

For the second time in two days, and with just hours to go in session, senators is being asked to approve a 10-bed labor and delivery unit at Miami Children's Hospital and cancer treatment guidelines that they don't like.

They rejected that same language on Thursday. It's now back in HB 1159 bill, along with some other things that the Senate does want.

The House voted 103-13 to approve the amended bill, which also allows a nursing home in the Village retirement community and a trauma center for Fort Walton Beach. The Senate already signed off on those provisions.

The House also added $500,000 in state funding for the prescription drug database, a priority of Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, and a mostly non-controversial provision.

The bill will now be sent back to the Senate, which must act before it adjourns today.

The Miami Children's maternity unit is controversial in the Senate. But the bigger problem may be how the House has insisted on implementing the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act, previously contained in HB 422.

Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto may still be unhappy with the language the House is sending back, including a grandfather clause and delayed implementation until July 2014. The bill is intended to require insurance companies to cover cancer medications equally, whether they are received in pill form or intravenously.

Debating the bill in the House, several members highlighted the various amendments they favored.

Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, said he supported the bill because of the Miami Children's provision. Just last week, he was there with one of his children who had symptoms of meningitis. He encouraged his colleagues to support the entire proposal based on what they liked, even if there are parts they don't.

"When you like two-thirds of the bill, vote up on it," he said.

But some said they voted "no" because the disliked one more more provisions. Rep. Jose Rodriguez, D-Miami, said he couldn't support the bill even though he was a proponent of the cancer treatment component, calling it a "very good policy measure."