Bills on the Hill: As Budget Season Looms, Health-Related Bills Move in the Legislature

Last Updated: Feb 26, 2018

Mike-Siget-BlogBy Michael D.I. Siget, JD, MPA, PAMED's Legislative & Regulatory Counsel

As the Pennsylvania legislature begins the yearly process of enacting a budget, several health-related bills have been signed into law. In today’s Bills on the Hill, we will review emergency prescriptions, reporting of criminal convictions, drug and alcohol recovery houses, review ambulatory surgery centers/ambulatory surgical facilities, and PDMP querying exemptions.

Emergency Prescriptions

SB 542, introduced by Sen. Patrick Browne, authorizes pharmacists to fill an emergency prescription for up to a 30-day supply in situations where a prescription is not dispensed or sold in a 72-hour supply, such as insulin. Prior to this bill, pharmacists were limited to emergency refills up to a 72-hour supply.

SB 542 was signed into law by Gov. Wolf on Feb. 15, 2018 as Act 8 of 2018 and took effect immediately.

Standardization of Reporting of Criminal Convictions

SB 354, introduced by Sen. Robert Tomlinson, will standardize reporting requirements across all licensing boards by requiring all licensees, registrants and certificate holders to report any disciplinary conduct by any licensing board or a misdemeanor or felony conviction (including Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, Probation without Verdict and Disposition In lieu of Trial) within 30 days. Failure to report would result in disciplinary action. 

A second part of this bill will allow a licensee, registrant, certificate holder or permit holder to make written application to the applicable board to have a licensure violation for discipline expunged from the individual’s record. The following provisions apply:

  • The discipline must be for a violation involving failure to complete continuing education requirements or for practicing for six months or less on a lapsed license, registration, certificate or permit.
  • The application must make written application for expungement no earlier than four years from the final disposition of the disciplinary record.
  • The discipline must be the only discipline on the individual’s record.
  • The individual must not be the subject of an active investigation related to professional or occupational conduct.
  • The individual must not be in current disciplinary status and any previous fines or fees must be paid.
  • The individual must not have had a disciplinary record previously expunged.
  • The individual must pay all costs associated with the expungement as established by regulation.

While the individual’s public record will be expunged, the violation will still be on file with the licensing board and may be used for any regulatory purpose and may be released by the licensing board upon request from law enforcement or other governmental body as permitted by law.

SB 354 was signed into law by Gov. Wolf on Feb. 15, 2018 as Act 6 of 2018 and takes effect on April 16, 2018.

Drug and Alcohol Recovery Houses

SB 446, introduced by Sen. Thomas McGarrigle, provides for the licensing and regulation of drug and alcohol recovery houses. All recovery houses must be licensed within two years of the effective date of the bill. Under this bill, a “drug and alcohol recovery house” is defined as “housing for individuals recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, which provides those individuals with a safe and supportive drug and alcohol-free environment that may include peer support and other recovery support services.”

SB 446 was signed into law by Gov. Wolf on Dec. 19, 2017 as Act 59 of 2017. It will take effect on June 17, 2018.

Length of stay in an ambulatory surgical center

HB 1234, sponsored by Rep. Florindo Fabrizio, aligns the length of stay in licensed ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs)/ambulatory surgical facilities (ASFs) with that of other states and federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) guidelines. Under current Pennsylvania Department of Health regulations, ASC stays are limited to a total of 4 hours of operating time and a total of 4 hours of directly supervised recovery. Under HB 1234, the regulations are abrogated, and authorized services will be permitted in an ASC/ASF where the expected duration of services will not exceed 24 hours following an admission.

HB 1234 was signed into law by Gov. Wolf on Dec. 22, 2017 as Act 70 of 2017. It took effect on February 20, 2018.  Further information on this issue can be accessed here.

PDMP Querying Exemption

As discussed in the October and December Bills on the Hill, SB 728, introduced by Sen. Gene Yaw, will exempt Schedule V epilepsy and seizure disorder drugs from the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) querying requirements.

SB 728 was signed into law by Gov. Wolf on Dec. 22, 2017 as Act 79 of 2017. It took effect on Feb. 20, 2018.

You can find details on the current PA PDMP requirements for prescribers online here.

1 comment

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  1. Steve Karp | Mar 02, 2018
    When will a diagnosis of cancer be made an exemption from the query process? Cancer pain is now being under treated. Not long ago this would get you sued. I also see that certain schedule V drugs were removed from the query process. This supports my contention that the practice of medicine, which this is since it prevents appropriate medical care from being given, should result in criminal prosecution. In this case it is due to Legislatures writing laws about a subject they are obviously ignorant of or they are receiving poor advice. Isn't the advice supposed to come from the state board of medicine or PMS? Good work PMS. Looking out again for number 1, which aren't the physicians. How about the esteemed members of the PA legislature pass a law tying their own hands. 

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