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State Capitol Highlights: A Legislative Update for Pennsylvania Physicians

By Hannah Walsh, PAMED Associate Director, Legislative Affairs

With final passage of the 2016-2017 state budget earlier this month, the Senate and House of Representatives recessed for the remainder of the summer. Both chambers are expected to reconvene in the fall for a limited number of session days prior to the November General Election.

As usual, budget deliberations during June were accompanied by a flurry of action on other legislative initiatives, including a number of health-care related measures. 

Below is PART 1 of a multipart series summarizing recent legislative activity which may be of interest to Pennsylvania physicians. Read PART 2 here.

SB 717: CRNP Independent Practice legislation (Introduced by Sen. Pat Vance-R-31st District)

Despite strong opposition from PAMED, SB 717 passed the state Senate on July 12, 2016, by a vote of 41-9. This legislation would eliminate the requirement for certified registered nurse practitioners (CRNPs) in Pennsylvania to collaborate with physicians in order to diagnose, treat and prescribe to patients. Prior to Senate passage, SB 717 was amended in committee to require CRNPs to have a minimum of 3,600 hours and 3 years of experience before they can practice independently.

While the recent vote on SB 717 was disappointing, PAMED thanks the many physicians who participated in the call to action campaign and contacted their state legislators to express their opinion on this issue in the weeks leading up to the vote. We faced relentlessly vocal support from the nurse-practitioner lobby, who were also supported in their efforts by the Hospital & Health System Association of Pennsylvania (HAP), AARP, Americans for Prosperity-Pennsylvania, and the Commonwealth Foundation, among others.

SB 717 now goes to the House for consideration. It has been referred to the House Professional Licensure Committee, which held a public hearing on the issue on October 22, 2015. Read more about the testimony presented by PAMED and other groups at that hearing here

In the coming months, PAMED will be working to further educate House members about the role physician collaboration plays in patient safety and quality care. Read more about the recent Senate vote and what physicians can do to advocate on this issue here.

HB 60: Oral Chemotherapy Parity (Introduced by Rep. Matt Baker-R-68th District)

Now Act 73 of 2016, this new law prohibits a health insurance policy that provides coverage for cancer chemotherapy from providing coverage for an orally administered anticancer medication on a less favorable basis than the coverage it provides for intravenously administered or injected cancer medications. PAMED supported this legislation, which takes effect immediately. The Pennsylvania Society of Oncology & Hematology put out a press release applauding the law's passage, noting that Pennsylvania is the 42nd state to enact oral parity.

HB 1606: Public School Code (Introduced by Rep. Jim Christiana-R-15th District)

The Public School Code—a bill adopted each year as part of the annual state budget process—typically includes a number of issues pending in the legislature. This year's comprehensive school code for 2016-2017—signed into law as Act 86 on July 13th—included the provisions of HB 1625, a bill introduced by Rep. Matt Baker (R-Tioga) to provide for the management of diabetes care in schools.  PAMED supported this legislation when it passed the state House on Dec. 17, 2015.

The new law allows a school nurse, in consultation with the chief school administrator or a designee, to identify at least one school employee who is not the school nurse and who does not need to be a licensed health care practitioner in each school building attended by a student with diabetes. 

An employee who satisfies specific training requirements may then be designated in a student's service agreement to administer diabetes medications (insulin and glucagon), use monitoring equipment and provide other diabetes care.  A student with diabetes would also be permitted to possess and self-administer diabetes medication and monitoring equipment, subject to demonstrated competency, parental permission and written authorization from the student's health care practitioner.

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