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Florida Bill May Ease Restrictions On Ad Specialties
Volume 608
May 12, 2009

Pending legislation in Florida could once again allow home health care providers to solicit some referrals through the use of promotional products. The proposed law, FL Senate bill 1986, partially amends a law that was passed last year. That law prohibits agencies from providing remuneration or promotional products of any value to doctors, case workers or hospital administrators. "It seems to me that they had to change the law to exempt businesses that are not billing Medicare," says Kathy Jorgensen, president of PBS Ad Specialties Inc. (asi/299811). "The government shouldn't be in the way of businesses."

If signed by Florida Governor Charlie Crist, the proposed law would essentially replace existing rules (set forth in FL House bill 7083) that have been in effect since July 2008. Senate bill 1986 is intended as an anti-fraud bill targeting improper practices like kickbacks. "The problem is that nobody is able to enforce the law," says Jorgensen. "How are you going to police this? The whole idea just isn't very practical."

The proposed bill would allow home health care agencies to solicit new referrals from doctors they haven't done business with before. However, once an agency bills Medicare, they are no longer permitted to offer any promotional products, even pens or notepads. At one time, Florida had a law that allowed a $50 limit for doctor's gifts, but it was changed to crack down on perceived bribes. While Senate bill 1986 appears to ease restrictions on the use of promotional products, companies in Florida are pushing for further action.

Lori Bauer, president of the Promotional Products Association of Florida (PPAF), says her organization is researching the hiring of a lobbyist to potentially help exact new legislation. "Unfortunately, promotional products, a majority in our industry priced under $10, are being compared to expensive golf outings, dinners and the like," wrote Bauer in an e-mail to Counselor. Wayne Greenberg, secretary of the PPAF, recently expressed his concerns to one of Crist's staffers in a meeting. He then sent a letter to the governor, further explaining his position. "Logoed items of relatively modest value should not be perceived as gifts that would unduly influence professional behavior," Greenberg wrote.

Senate bill 1986 has already passed the Florida Legislature. If signed by Crist, the bill would become law on July 1, 2009.

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