Click here for the June report. These reports are provided by our Chapter Lobbyist, typically once per month contingent on activity in Harrisburg.
Most of the Commonwealth has started to cautiously reopen following the COVID-19 business shutdowns and Pennsylvanians are resuming normal life. Likewise, although many legislators and staff continue to work/vote remotely from their districts, they have begun to move bills that were put on a temporary hold during the pandemic.
One bill of interest is the Consumer Prescription Drug Pricing and Freedom Disclosure Act (HB 943), which allows pharmacists to disclose cost-related prescription drug information. The bill prohibits a pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) or pharmacy services administration organization (PSAO) from penalizing a pharmacy, pharmacist or contracting agent of a pharmacy or pharmacist for disclosing the following to a covered individual:
Costs related to a prescription drug, including an individual’s cost share;
Availability of therapeutically equivalent alternative medications; and
More affordable alternatives if one is available.
This week, the bill was amended in the Senate and then passed with a unanimous vote. It will now go back to the House for concurrence in Senate amendments. After that, it will be sent to the Governor’s desk.
The legislature is also working on several pieces of legislation to address police reform in response to the recent nationwide protests.
In addition, the House of Representatives held internal leadership elections after Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) resigned to take a position as General Counsel for Peoples Gas in Pittsburgh. As a result:
Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) was elected as the new Speaker of the House;
Majority Whip Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre) was elected as the new Majority Leader in the House; and
Majority Policy Committee Chairwoman Representative Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion) was elected to serve as the new Majority Whip.
As far as summer session schedules, we’re anticipating that the legislature will return for a handful of days. So far we know that next week, the House is scheduled to return to session on July 7 and 8. But full schedules have not been announced yet.
Executive Order Re: Civil Immunity for Health Care Providers
On May 6, Governor Wolf issued an Executive Order offering civil immunity for health care providers. According to the Governor’s accompanying press release, the goal is “to afford health care practitioners protection against liability for good faith actions taken in response to the call to supplement the health care provider workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.” It should be noted that the order does not “extend to health care professionals rendering non-COVID-19 medical and health treatment or services to individuals.”
A couple pieces of legislation have been introduced that also address immunity for health care providers, but appear to have broader applications than the Executive Order and might include immunity for non-COVID-19 cases. That said, if these measures pass the House and Senate, the Governor will likely veto. More details on the legislative proposals are provided below.
In late May, the legislature passed a short-term $26 billion budget plan for Fiscal Year 2020-21. The plan essentially provides for five-months’ worth of spending based on the blueprint from last year’s budget. It doesn’t include any tax increases yet. However, the legislature will need to return to negotiate the final seven-months of the budget later in 2020. And based on the anticipated multi-billion-dollar shortfall, tax increases will likely be implemented.
The budget plan was signed by the Governor on May 29.
Below is a brief update on some of the top legislative priorities for PaACC this session. Keep in mind, all bills have until December 31, 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 continuing to work closely with Majority Chairwoman Kathy Rapp, Minority Chairman Dan Frankel and committee staff along with several stakeholders to help move this bill forward. 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 29, the bill was reported out of the House Education 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. On April 29, 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.
HB 2546 (Grove, R-York): Amends the Administrative Code by providing for COVID-19 Good Samaritan Emergency Liability Waiver. The bill provides health care facilities and practitioners with immunity from liability for damage to equipment or other goods for the public health emergency response. It also grants medical care providers withimmunity from civil and criminal liability for medical care.
STATUS: The bill was introduced and referred to the House State Government Committee on May 26.
SB 1181 (Brooks, R-Mercer): Amends Title 42 (Judiciary) by providing immunity from liability for certain providers and facilities providing medical care to individuals with COVID-19. It also provides immunity from liability for damages from equipment and other goods used in response to COVID-19.
STATUS: The bill was introduced and referred to Senate Judiciary Committee on June 4 and is waiting for committee consideration.
Plaintiff malpractice lawyers have brought a venue shifting case to the PA Supreme Court, arguing that somehow the inability to shift venue is unconstitutional. A concern is if the Supreme Court decides that venue shifting is okay/acceptable then there may be problems going forward as that will then become the legal precedent. PaACC is working with our lobbyists and PAMED to see what can be done. Click the link to see more.
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