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Ten Top Health Care Issues from Pennsylvania’s 2015-2016 Legislative Session

The Pennsylvania General Assembly concluded its 199th regular session in November, passing more than 50 pieces of legislation in the final days of the 2015-2016 session. Of the 3,748 bills introduced by the legislature, only 291 bills were ultimately passed and signed into law.

At last count, the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) was actively tracking 442 bills that had the potential to affect physicians and their patients. Here's a quick recap of ten significant health care issues considered during the commonwealth's 2015-2016 legislative session:

1. CRNP Independent Licensure
The PA House and Senate considered legislation that would allow CRNPs to practice independently. PAMED opposed the legislation, which was defeated this session thanks to the grassroots efforts of physicians who reached out to their legislators. PAMED will continue to support the preservation of physician-led, team-based care for all patients in Pennsylvania. 

Video: Legislative Overview

PAMED President Charles Cutler, MD, MACP, talks about PAMED's advocacy efforts on CRNP independent practice, opioid abuse, and retroactive denial.

Watch the Video

2. Opioid Abuse
On Nov. 2, 2016, Gov. Wolf signed four pieces of opioids legislation into law, including legislation that updated the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) law and set certain prescribing practices for opioids and benzodiazepines. PAMED worked closely with legislative leaders and staff to ensure that what was signed into law took a patient-centered and common sense approach. Learn about the new laws in this Quick Consult.

3. Retroactive Denial
A law signed in November 2016 requires that an insurer cannot retroactively deny reimbursement as a result of an overpayment determination more than 24 months after the initial payment. The law is a significant improvement over current retroactive review practices. Learn more.

4. Credentialing, Insurance Reforms, and Telemedicine
We saw the successful introduction and advancement on several priority issues for PAMED, including legislation to streamline the prior authorization process, reform the insurance credentialing process, and promote the use of telemedicine in PA. While legislation on these issues did not become law, incremental progress was made. Check out PAMED's resources on credentialing and insurance reforms and telemedicine.

5. Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Authorization
A law signed on Oct. 26, 2016, authorizes Pennsylvania to join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. Get more details about what physicians should know about the Compact here.

6. Biosimilar Substitution
Signed on July 21, 2016, the new law allows a pharmacist to substitute a prescribed biological product with a biosimilar which has been determined by the U.S. FDA to be 'interchangeable' with the biological product that was prescribed. The law requires a pharmacist who substitutes a biological drug to notify the prescriber of the specific product that was provided to the patient within 72 hours of dispensing it. Prescriber notification was a key provision that PAMED strongly supported. Find out more here.

7. Hepatitis C Screening
The Hepatitis C Screening Act took effect on Sept. 18, 2016, and requires hepatitis C screening to be offered to certain patient populations. PAMED was successful in advocating that the final version of the bill contained no penalties on health care providers. We offer a Quick Consult with physician FAQs on the law.

8. Medical Marijuana
Legislation establishing a Medical Marijuana Program in PA was signed into law on April 17, 2016. PAMED's series of Quick Consults answer FAQs about the law.

9. Oral Chemotherapy Parity
In July of this year, Gov. Wolf signed legislation into law that requires fairness in cost-sharing between intravenous and orally administered cancer drugs. Read the press release from PAMED and the Pennsylvania Society of Oncology and Hematology.

10. Naturopaths
The Naturopathic Doctor Registration Act requires doctors of naturopathic medicine to register with the State Board of Medicine. Naturopathic doctors may also be subject to disciplinary action by the Board for a number of reasons. PAMED worked to ensure that the final version of the bill was limited to board registration and did not expand a naturopath's clinical scope of practice beyond naturopathy.

The 200th regular session of the General Assembly convenes on the first Tuesday in January 2017. PAMED will continue working to ensure that Pennsylvania physicians have a seat at the table when important policy decisions affecting medical practice are discussed.

Learn more about PAMED's advocacy initiatives at www.pamedsoc.org/advocacy.


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