(1) LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS AND INTENT.—
(a) The Legislature finds that, in rural areas, access to health care is limited and the quality of health care is negatively affected by inadequate financing, difficulty in recruiting and retaining skilled health professionals, and because of a migration of patients to urban areas for general acute care and specialty services.
(b) The Legislature further finds that the efficient and effective delivery of health care services in rural areas requires the integration of public and private resources and the coordination of health care providers.
(c) The Legislature further finds that the availability of a continuum of quality health care services, including preventive, primary, secondary, tertiary, and long-term care, is essential to the economic and social vitality of rural communities.
(d) The Legislature further finds that the creation of rural health networks can help to alleviate these problems. Rural health networks shall act in the broad public interest and, to the extent possible, be structured to provide a continuum of quality health care services for rural residents through the cooperative efforts of rural health network members.
(e) The Legislature further finds that rural health networks shall have the goal of increasing the utilization of statutory rural hospitals for appropriate health care services whenever feasible, which shall help to ensure their survival and thereby support the economy and protect the health and safety of rural residents.
(f) Finally, the Legislature finds that rural health networks may serve as “laboratories” to determine the best way of organizing rural health services, to move the state closer to ensuring that everyone has access to health care, and to promote cost containment efforts. The ultimate goal of rural health networks shall be to ensure that quality health care is available and efficiently delivered to all persons in rural areas.
(a) “Rural” means an area with a population density of less than 100 individuals per square mile or an area defined by the most recent United States Census as rural.
(b) “Health care provider” means any individual, group, or entity, public or private, that provides health care, including: preventive health care, primary health care, secondary and tertiary health care, in-hospital health care, public health care, and health promotion and education.
(c) “Rural health network” or “network” means a nonprofit legal entity, consisting of rural and urban health care providers and others, that is organized to plan and deliver health care services on a cooperative basis in a rural area, except for some secondary and tertiary care services.
(3) Because each rural area is unique, with a different health care provider mix, health care provider membership may vary, but all networks shall include members that provide public health, comprehensive primary care, emergency medical care, and acute inpatient care.
(4) Network membership shall be available to all health care providers, provided that they render care to all patients referred to them from other network members, comply with network quality assurance and risk management requirements, abide by the terms and conditions of network provider agreements in paragraph (11)(c), and provide services at a rate or price equal to the rate or price negotiated by the network.
(5) Network areas do not need to conform to local political boundaries or state administrative district boundaries. The geographic area of one rural health network, however, may not overlap the territory of any other rural health network.
(6) Networks shall develop provisions for referral to tertiary inpatient care and to other services that are not available in rural areas.
(7) Networks shall make available health promotion, disease prevention, and primary care services to improve the health status of rural residents and to contain health care costs.
(8) Networks may have multiple points of entry, such as through private physicians, community health centers, county health departments, certified rural health clinics, hospitals, or other providers; or they may have a single point of entry.
(9) Networks shall establish standard protocols, coordinate and share patient records, and develop patient information exchange systems.
(10) Networks shall develop risk management and quality assurance programs for network providers.
(11) NETWORK GOVERNANCE AND ORGANIZATION.—
(a) Networks shall be incorporated under the laws of the state.
(b) Networks shall have a board of directors that derives membership from local government, health care providers, businesses, consumers, and others.
(c) Network boards of directors shall have the responsibility of determining the content of health care provider agreements that link network members. The agreements shall specify:
1. Who provides what services.
2. The extent to which the health care provider provides care to persons who lack health insurance or are otherwise unable to pay for care.
3. The procedures for transfer of medical records.
4. The method used for the transportation of patients between providers.
5. Referral and patient flow including appointments and scheduling.
6. Payment arrangements for the transfer or referral of patients.
(d) There shall be no liability on the part of, and no cause of action of any nature shall arise against, any member of a network board of directors, or its employees or agents, for any lawful action taken by them in the performance of their administrative powers and duties under this subsection.
(12) NETWORK SERVICES.— (a) Networks, to the extent feasible, shall provide for a continuum of care for all patients served by the network. Each network shall include the following core services: disease prevention, health promotion, comprehensive primary care, emergency medical care, and acute inpatient care. Each network shall ensure the availability of comprehensive maternity care, including prenatal, delivery, and postpartum care for uncomplicated pregnancies, either directly, by contract, or through referral agreements. Networks shall, to the extent feasible, also ensure the availability of the following services within the specified timeframes, either directly, by contract, or through referral agreements: 1. Services available in the home.
a. Home health care.
b. Hospice care.
2. Services accessible within 30 minutes travel time or less.
a. Emergency medical services, including advanced life support, ambulance, and basic emergency room services.
b. Primary care.
c. Prenatal and postpartum care for uncomplicated pregnancies.
d. Community-based services for elders, such as adult day care and assistance with activities of daily living.
e. Public health services, including communicable disease control, disease prevention, health education, and health promotion.
f. Outpatient psychiatric and substance abuse services.
3. Services accessible within 45 minutes travel time or less.
a. Hospital acute inpatient care for persons whose illnesses or medical problems are not severe.
b. Level I obstetrical care, which is labor and delivery for low-risk patients.
c. Skilled nursing services, long-term care, including nursing home care.
e. Osteopathic and chiropractic manipulative therapy.
4. Services accessible within 2 hours travel time or less.
a. Specialist physician care.
b. Hospital acute inpatient care for severe illnesses and medical problems.
c. Level II and III obstetrical care, which is labor and delivery care for high-risk patients and neonatal intensive care.
d. Comprehensive medical rehabilitation.
e. Inpatient psychiatric and substance abuse services.
f. Magnetic resonance imaging, lithotripter treatment, advanced radiology, and other technologically advanced services.
g. Subacute care.
(b) Networks shall actively participate with area health education center programs, whenever feasible, in developing and implementing recruitment, training, and retention programs directed at positively influencing the supply and distribution of health care professionals serving in, or receiving training in, network areas.
(c) As funds become available, networks shall emphasize community care alternatives for elders who would otherwise be placed in nursing homes.
(d) To promote the most efficient use of resources, networks shall emphasize disease prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of medical problems, and community care alternatives for persons with mental health and substance abuse disorders who are at risk to be institutionalized.
(13) TRAUMA SERVICES.—In those network areas which have an established trauma agency approved by the Department of Health, that trauma agency must be a participant in the network. Trauma services provided within the network area must comply with s. 395.405.
(14) NETWORK FINANCING.—Networks may use all sources of public and private funds to support network activities. Nothing in this section prohibits networks from becoming managed care providers.
(15) NETWORK IMPLEMENTATION.—As funds become available, networks shall be developed and implemented in two phases.
(a) Phase I shall consist of a network planning and development grant program. Planning grants shall be used to organize networks, incorporate network boards, and develop formal provider agreements as provided for in this section. The Department of Health shall develop a request-for-proposal process to solicit grant applications.
(b) Phase II shall consist of network operations. As funds become available, certified networks shall be eligible to receive grant funds to be used to help defray the costs of network infrastructure development, patient care, and network administration. Infrastructure development includes, but is not limited to: recruitment and retention of primary care practitioners; development of preventive health care programs; linkage of urban and rural health care systems; design and implementation of automated patient records, outcome measurement, quality assurance, and risk management systems; establishment of one-stop service delivery sites; upgrading of medical technology available to network providers; enhancement of emergency medical systems; enhancement of medical transportation; and development of telecommunication capabilities. A Phase II award may occur in the same fiscal year as a Phase I award.
(16) CERTIFICATION.—For the purpose of certifying networks that are eligible for Phase II funding, the Department of Health shall certify networks that meet the criteria delineated in this section and the rules governing rural health networks.
(17) RULES.—The Department of Health shall establish rules that govern the creation and certification of networks, including establishing outcome measures for networks.