2021 Year-end Legislative Update
December 16, 2021
Midway Point 2021-2022 Regular Session of the Pennsylvania General Assembly
As we come to a close on the 2021 calendar year, we also reach the midway point of the 2021-2022 regular legislative session of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. 2021 saw a return to a bit of normalcy at the state Capitol amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, but a new normal has certainly arrived. While many legislators are present on session voting days, remote voting is an option that many legislators have decided is the safest way for them to represent their constituents. Many offices, which had previously been easily accessible, are now locked or require advance appointments.
Across the country we’re seeing tensions rise in state capitols, and in Washington, over election reforms, mask and vaccine mandates, over-crowded hospitals, and the overall impact COVID-19 has had on businesses and our economy. It has been challenging for all, especially those dedicated to patient care.
As we look to 2022, politics may very well trump policy as legislators and legislative candidates eye the May primaries and November General Elections. 2022 also marks the creation of new legislative district maps that could potentially change the composition of the General Assembly and leave some legislators to decide if they should bow out of office or face the harsh reality of running against a colleague. Further, the eyes of the nation have shifted to the Commonwealth as we near a primary election for an open U.S. Senate seat in addition to the election of a new Governor’s. At last count, there are currently ten announced candidates seeking the republican nomination for Governor while Attorney General Josh Shapiro stands as the only democratic candidate.
Despite the currently political environment, the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) continues to work tirelessly to defend the practice of medicine, protect the physician-patient relationship and ensure that we are always mindful of legislation and regulation that could potentially impact the practice of medicine. The pandemic continues to provide policy issues and challenges in addition to the existing priority issues that PAMED advocates on behalf of, which include scope of practice and prior authorization.
The first year of the current legislative session provided a few highlights for PAMED. Among these were the enactment of Senate Bill 425 as ACT 61 of 2021. ACT 61 was a PAMED-supported effort to provide a remedy to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling which had changed how consent was obtained in hospitals and other clinical settings by attending physicians.
PAMED was able to support or provide neutrality on various agreements with Advanced Practice Providers including the passage of Senate Bill 416 (CRNAs) and Senate Bills 397/398 (PAs).
Another key issue that saw movement was Senate Bill 225, an extensive effort to reform the prior authorization process. While this effort has a long road ahead, it advanced out of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee for the first time and there is some level of optimism that it may be taken up before the full Senate early next year.
House Bill 681 seeks to provide a fair approach to both employed physicians and provider employers while setting specific requirements for when the use of restrictive covenants is appropriate. This bill has advanced out of the House Health Committee and is awaiting final consideration before the full House.
Lastly, Senate Bill 705 that seeks to provide legislative framework for the practice of telemedicine has advanced out of the Senate. We have seen this effort reach the Governor’s desk in the past only to see it vetoed. We are hopeful that this effort might reach a compromise in the second year of this session.
While these are only a few highlights of the current legislative session, detailed below is a list of other issues that we are actively monitoring along with a brief summary. PAMED continues to engage in a number of legislative issues as well as participating in a large coalition to prevent any changes to the current Pennsylvania Supreme Court Civil Procedure rules regarding venue in medical malpractice professional liability cases.
Prof. Licensure Committee, but it is not anticipated that this bill will advance beyond the Senate in its current form. Likely, any movement on this issue would come in the form of a bill/amendment that starts from the agreed upon pilot program.
(HCO2108) – (Hickernell) – Co-sponsorship memo recently introduced to advance the pilot program legislation.