By Steve Dozier
I am despondent over the fact that my physician’s ability to continue providing me care hangs in limbo as Governor Ron DeSantis contemplates whether to sign HB 843 into law. This bill would negate the legality of restrictive non-compete clauses for some physicians and their patients.
You see, my doctor has been a godsend in the five-year battle of my life against an aggressive cancer.
For me, he outperforms the clinics of national fame. He has surpassed the medical journals in treatment strategy. He fights to get me every innovation. He gives me his passion, and time, and profound expertise. I actually look forward to our realistic but very uplifting visits. In short, my physician gives me hope.
I am fighting my version of the cancer struggle that hits more than 130,000 people each year in Florida. I have gladly postponed adding my name to the list of 45,000 Floridians each year who die from the cancer monster. I am able to do all of this much more easily because I have his absolute dedication on my side.
I am angry and stunned that my relationship with this fighter for my life and well-being is in jeopardy – all because of a “non-compete” employment clause that should never have been allowed in the first place.
He and the physicians with whom he practiced left their former employer, 21st Century Oncology. They hope to open their own independent medical practice here where their patients live and need care. The former employer is insisting on enforcing a “non-compete” clause in their employment contracts that says their physicians may not practice within 20 miles of any of their clinics if they leave 21st Century.
When I was informed by office staff that my physician had left the practice, they refused to elaborate. With their own jobs at risk, they gave me ZERO further information. I felt coldly abandoned. My physician was legally prohibited from contacting me, so he did not. Still, he remains, by far, my number one choice for his specialty in my battle for life.
Similar non-compete clauses tie the hands of countless Floridians as they fight and battle for their lives. Simply put, patients lose their right to choose. As a policy matter, this is also bad for communities, who lose the expertise and contributions of highly skilled specialists.
The Legislature has presented Gov. DeSantis with a unique opportunity to strike a blow against local health care monopolies. Lawmakers sent him a bill that would enact several health care reforms, but none as important to me as the language eliminating many of these burdensome non-compete clauses. With a stroke of his pen, our governor can end practices that restrict patients from seeing the physicians they choose.
As a cancer survivor and as a continuing vigilant patient, I urge all Floridians who care about preserving their right of physician choice to urge Gov. DeSantis to sign HB 843. That bill is every bit for the patient’s own good. It prioritizes a patient-focused system for patients who are loving sons, husbands and grandfathers … in other words, people just like me.
Steve Dozier lives in Cape Coral and is a longtime Florida resident. He spent his career as a reporter, editor and news executive at several top American newspapers, and taught journalism at two major universities. He is the loving grandfather of four.