Advocate: 2nd Quarter Legislative Update
The current pandemic the world is facing has had a significant impact on everyday life in Pa., and the General Assembly is no exception. Adding to this is the civil unrest and justice reform movements that our nation is experiencing collectively. The unfortunate result on the way business is being conducted in Harrisburg is that all of these things together have only deepened the divide between political parties and those sitting on opposite sides of the aisle.
Here’s a look at notable health care legislation in the Pa. General Assembly this year.
Lawsuit Abuse Protections for Physicians Who Treat COVID-19 Patients
- While Gov. Wolf’s recent executive order grants medical liability immunity protections for SOME health care workers treating COVID-19 patients, it does not cover practitioners in outpatient settings, leaving them vulnerable to personal injury lawyers.
- Senate Bill 1239 – which PAMED strongly supports – aims to expand medical liability immunity to include all health care practitioners, regardless of practice setting. It is our hope that Senate Bill 1239, introduced by Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Lisa Baker (R-Lackawanna), will be considered by the Judiciary Committee as soon as the Senate returns to legislative session.
- Urge your Senator to support SB 1239: www.pamedsoc.org/LawsuitAbuseProtection.
- Due the pandemic and most activities being conducted remotely, there was some optimism that telemedicine legislation could get done, however, the issue continues to be saddled with abortion concerns and a deep divide among pro-life legislators and the Governor’s office related directly to the issue of medical abortions via telemedicine. The measure was approved by the General Assembly, but was vetoed by Gov. Wolf because the legislation contained abortion restrictions performed through this modality.
Prior Authorization Reform
- PAMED continues to push for advancement of prior authorization reform legislation
(HB 1194 and SB 920).
- Please continue to share with your state Representative and Senator why such legislation is needed in Pa. Personal stories and examples of patient delays in care and treatment are impactful.
We continue to monitor out-of-network/balance billing legislation (HB 1862) and oppose in its current form.
- This is an important issue at both the state and federal level and, while the issue needs to be addressed, the current bill falls short of removing the patient from the middle and is extremely pro-insurer. Amendments have been drafted to address these issues. If they were to be included in the bill, PAMED would change our position to support the legislation.
Creating a State Framework for Addressing Fraud in Health Care Involving Federal Funding
PAMED opposes HB 2352, which seeks to provide a state framework for addressing fraud in health care involving federal funding.
- This legislation is redundant as the federal government currently provides for these remedies and grants unprecedented investigative powers and authority to the state Attorney General.
Licensure Parity for International Medical Graduates
- HB 1947, which seeks to modernize the process by which graduates of international medical schools become licensed, advanced to the Senate after final passage by the House with a vote of 202-0. We anticipate this measure to win Senate approval in the fall.
- The legislation reduces the number of residency years, from three to two, that international medical graduates must complete prior to applying for a Pennsylvania medical license.
Scope of Practice
- Other legislation in which PAMED has been actively involved includes optometric (SB 391 & HB 2561) and CRNP (SB 25 & HB 100) scope of practice proposals, both of which are not expected to move in the near term.
- These measures seek to expand the scope of practice authority for both optometrists and CRNPs beyond their current statutory restrictions.
- Learn more about PAMED’s scope of practice advocacy on behalf of physicians: www.pamedsoc.org/dontloseyourdoc
New Laws Protecting Health Care Workers
- Adding Health Care Workers as a Protected Class – Act 51 (Senate Bill 351), introduced by Sen. Judy Ward on behalf of PAMED and signed into law by Gov. Wolf on July 1, adds “health care practitioners” as a protected class in the event of an assault.
- Last Names on Health Care ID Badges – Act 54 (SB 842), introduced by Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill and signed into law by Gov. Wolf on July 1, allows an employee’s last name to be omitted from an identification badge.
Both new laws take effect Aug. 30. Learn more: www.pamedsoc.org/protectinghcworkers
Pharmacist Gag Clauses
- For years, “gag clauses” prevented pharmacists from disclosing when it was cheaper to pay cash for prescription drugs rather than use insurance. In 2019, federal legislation in 2019 banned such clauses in most cases. A new law – which PAMED supported – will ensure entities not covered in federal legislation cannot use gag clauses either.
- The legislation – Act 67 of 2020 – was approved by Gov. Wolf on July 23, 2020. Learn more: www.pamedsoc.org/gagclause
Medical Liability Update: Venue Rule
The Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform (PCCJR), of which PAMED is a health care member, filed an amicus brief in a case concerning the state’s venue rule for medical liability actions. The brief supports the existing venue rule which provides that such medical liability actions may be brought against a health care provider for a medical professional liability claim only in the county in which the cause of action arose. Learn more: www.pamedsoc.org/venueamicusbrief
To learn more about PAMED’s ongoing advocacy in support of the current venue rule, visit www.pamedsoc.org/venuerule.
2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Proposed Rule
The proposal, which was released on Aug. 3, 2020, includes major payment changes. Due to budget neutrality requirements set by law, proposed increases to office visit payments, as well as other proposed payment increases, are being offset by payment reductions to other services – for example, surgery and anesthesia. Get PAMED’s overview: www.pamedsoc.org/2021MedicarePFS
Additional information from the AMA, please click here