Experienced Capitol watchers will tell you that there is a rhythm to legislative activity, with alternating and quite predictable periods of quiet and commotion during each two-year session of the General Assembly. We are now fully engulfed in one of those busy periods, as legislators rush to get bills to the governor’s desk before the end of the year.

Even though this is only year one of the two-year term, everyone knows that less gets done in year two, when legislators are focused on their reelection campaigns. Hence the legislative equivalent of a 100-yard dash to the holiday recess.

Controlled substances database

Not surprisingly, the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) has more than its share of balls in the air during this hectic period. As I write this, we are expecting the release of Sen. Pat Vance’s version of a controlled substances database (CSDB) bill at any time. While we haven’t seen the language, our understanding is that the bill will be shorter and less complex than the House-passed version. Hopefully any differences between the two measures can quickly be reconciled, as physicians are anxious to have this valuable tool made available to them.

Biosimilars

Moving on, the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee passed Senate Bill 405, Sen. Vance’s PAMED-endorsed legislation that would establish patient safety mandates related to substitution of “biosimilars,” loosely described as the biologic equivalent of generic drugs. We are working to get quick action on the bill by the full Senate.

(EpiPens) in Schools

During the week of Nov. 18-22, the House Education Committee is scheduled to consider another PAMED initiative. House Bill 803, introduced by Rep. Dick Stevenson, would permit schools to acquire and store epinephrine auto-injectors for use by trained school personnel when a student has a severe allergic reaction. As the parent of an “epi-child,” I couldn’t be happier.

Physician supervision of anesthesia

Another positive development this week was the House Professional Licensure Committee approval of House Bill 1603, introduced by Rep. Jim Christiana. This important patient safety measure will assure that when nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia, they are supervised by a qualified physician. A vote by the entire House could come as soon as next week.

Child abuse reporting

On a more mixed note, next week the House Children and Youth Committee will consider Senate Bill 21, one of a package of bills intended to strengthen the state’s child abuse reporting laws. Introduced by Sen. Kim Ward, the measure contains many positive elements. However, it also contains troublesome language that may discourage prior abusers from seeking treatment. We are working to remove that language.

Elder abuse

On the subject of abuse, the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee has scheduled a hearing during the week of Nov. 18-22 on the subject of elder abuse. One possible outcome could be legislation making health care licensees mandated reporters, as they are when it comes to child abuse. We are working closely with the committee staff, and will keep you apprised as legislation is developed.

Audiology

Finally, the House Professional Licensure Committee is scheduled to vote on Senate Bill 137 the week of Nov. 18-22. Like the child abuse reporting bill referred to above, Sen. John Gordner’s bill contains many provisions related to audiology that physicians are comfortable with. However, it also contains a section that would authorize audiologists to perform inter-operative monitoring (IOM) of neurological function during surgery without physician supervision. That is simply unacceptable from a patient safety perspective, and PAMED opposes the bill.

With the House and Senate each scheduled to be in session for only three more weeks before the holiday recess, there won’t be any letdown in the pace of legislative activity. So, be sure to check back often for updates.

As always, feel free to contact me with any comments or questions at schadwick@pamedsoc.org or (717) 558-7814.