On April 22nd, Governor Wolf announced his three-phased reopening plan for Pennsylvania. The entire state is currently in the “red phase,” meaning there are full COVID-19-related restrictions in effect. However, beginning May 8th, the Governor will start to allow counties with fewer cases of COVID-19 to transition to the “yellow phase.” This means some businesses could start to reopen in those areas, but working remotely is still preferred. Schools, theaters, and gyms would remain closed. Restaurants and bars would be able to continue with curbside/delivery options only. In-person retail would be permitted, but curbside/delivery options would be preferred. After the “yellow phase,” counties would be gradually transitioned into the “green phase,” where most restrictions would be lifted. The Governor plans to announce more details on May 1st.
Meanwhile, the House and Senate have been trying to address increasing pressure from their constituents and have been largely focused on bills that will start to reopen certain sectors of the state’s economy. It’s anticipated that Governor Wolf will veto these types of bills as they do not necessarily align with the reopening plan. However, the Governor did show some flexibility in his plan this week by lifting the original restrictions on construction, golf courses, marinas, campgrounds, and guided fishing trips. These sectors are permitted to reopen May 1st so long as they practice mitigation. Online car sales are also permitted now.
The House and Senate are scheduled to return to session on Monday, May 4th for the fifth consecutive week of session.
Below is a brief update on some of the top legislative priorities for PaACC this session. Keep in mind, all bills have until December 31st, 2020 to be signed into law. Otherwise, they will have to be reintroduced next session.
HB 2103 (Jozwiak, R-Berks): Amends the Patient Test Result Information Act (Act 112 of 2018) by exempting specific cardiac testing from the notification requirements.As you know, Act 112 requires imaging entities to directly notify the patient if the test results indicate significant abnormalities. However, cardiovascular imaging results aren't necessarily as straightforward as other imaging studies, such as chest X-rays or abdominal ultrasounds, where potentially cancerous nodules or masses might be identified and direct patient notification would be beneficial. So an exemption for the cardiology specialty is needed.
STATUS: HB 2103 is currently waiting for a vote in the House Health Committee. Milliron Goodman has been working closely with Majority Chairwoman Kathy Rapp, Minority Chairman Dan Frankel and committee staff along with several stakeholders to help move this bill forward. Due to legislative focus on COVID-19-related topics, this bill is on a temporary hold, but we will continue to advocate for a committee vote. We are cautiously optimistic!
SB 836 (Regan, R-Cumberland): Amends the Sudden Cardiac Prevention Act to require 1) information be provided to student athletes regarding electrocardiogram testing and 2) they be notified of the option to request the administration of an electrocardiogram in addition to the standard physical examination.
STATUS: Milliron Goodman helped address PaACC’s concerns about who would perform the tests, who would be responsible for costs, and the source of the information on EKGs.
On April 29th, the bill was reported out of committee with a unanimous vote. The bill will have to be voted on by the full House and then sent back to the Senate for a concurrence vote before heading to the Governor’s desk.
HB 1194 (Mentzer, R-Lancaster): Amends the Insurance Company Law by addressing prior authorization and step therapy to help physicians and other healthcare providers deliver better and more appropriate care to their patients.
STATUS: The bill was introduced and referred to the House Insurance Committee in November 2019. PaACC has been participating in the coalition calls and grassroots efforts. Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill also introduced a companion bill (SB 920) in December. It is waiting for a vote in the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee.
SB 857 (Vogel, R-Beaver): Amends Title 40 (Insurance) by authorizing providers to use telemedicine and requires insurers to provide coverage and reimbursement. This telemedicine parity law would require private payers to reimburse telemedicine services in the same way as in-person services.
STATUS: The bill passed the House and Senate and was sent to the Governor’s desk. This week the Governor vetoed the bill noting that it “arbitrarily restricts the use of telemedicine for certain doctor-patient interactions.” He was referencing the House Republican amendment that would prohibit telemedicine for some abortion medications.
We also note that Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Michelle Brooks has announced her intention to introduce a bill that would provide for COVID-19 limited liability protections. Her co-sponsorship memo notes that the bill will “provide immunity from liability for certain providers and facilities providing medical care to individuals with COVID-19. This legislation will also provide immunity from liability for damages from equipment and other goods used in response to COVID-19.”We will let you know as soon as the bill is introduced. PaACC will likely be supportive.
Please take action: health care workers need medical malpractice liability immunity because the way we practice medicine has changed. Read Dr. Waxler's full message and send a personalized message to Governor Wolf and/or your state legislators by clicking here.
Executive Order for Liability Immunity
Over the past several weeks, your PaACC in concert with strong work from our partner PAMED, has persistently encouraged Governor Wolf to replace his kind words with action specifically an Executive Order for Liability Immunity. Click here to read the order.
Click here to read a letter sent to Governor Wolf by PaACC President Andrew Waxler, MD, FACC regarding Medical Liability Protection during the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Pictured: PA delegation at the U.S. Capitol during Legislative Conference)
Pennsylvania Chapter, American College of Cardiology