November 14, 2019

PA-ACP has continued to work with legislative leadership, Committee Chairs and staff on dozens of bills which would impact Pennsylvania’s internists, practices and their patients this fall.

Among the top issues under consideration by the General Assembly are telemedicine, prior authorization reform, surprise balance billing, drug price transparency, and medical malpractice issues.  PA-ACP has been actively involved in negotiations and amendments on virtually all of these issues.  Both chambers are also expected to consider several bills that would further regulate tobacco and ENDs, with a focus on raising the age for purchase of tobacco and ENDs to 21 and eliminating ENDs on school property.  The Senate has passed SB 473 which would do that, by a 43-6 vote, and we are now focusing on the House Human Services Committee for further action.

Several other key priorities have been moved to the front burner this fall:
Telemedicine – PA-ACP testified on the needs and requirements for telemedicine legislation in both 2018 and 2019, and worked with the Senate on a bill sponsored by Sen. Elder Vogel of Beaver County (SB 857) which was passed this fall and is now in the House Insurance Committee.  The bill would improve the availability of healthcare services by promoting and formally recognizing telemedicine services in Pennsylvania. Telemedicine would allow care providers to deliver services digitally through the use of apps, Skype, FaceTime and other advanced technologies. We are urging members to contact their House members and request their support for passage of this bill in the House.  The bill will hopefully get consideration in November or December.

Prior Authorization – PA-ACP has long supported reforms in prior authorization and has been actively involved with negotiations over language to make those reforms to benefit patients and reduce administrative burdens for its members.  Two bills, HB 1194, sponsored by Rep. Steven Mentzer (R, Lancaster), which has 56 bipartisan cosponsors, and SB 1606, sponsored by Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R, York) will take on this reform effort in the General Assembly.  The College is working with other physician organizations and patient advocacy groups to get legislative support for either or both of these bills.  Add your voice to the College’s by taking action via the VoterVoice link on the Advocacy page!

Surprise Balance Billing - PA-ACP testified this spring and worked with House Insurance Committee chair Rep. Tina Pickett (R, Sullivan) to protect the interests of internists in developing surprise balance billing legislation.  This bill, HB 1862, was finally introduced on October 25 and is ready for a vote by the full House of Representatives.  While we have issues with specific provisions in the bill, we do support the patient protection segments of the legislation.

Scope of Practice Expansion - PA-ACP has resolutely opposed legislation that would allow certified registered nurse practitioners to practice without collaborative agreements.  The Senate has again passed legislation (SB 25) that would do that, and we are again working with House leadership and the Professional Licensure Committee to prevent further action on the bill.  We urge you to contact your House member and ask them to contact leadership and withhold this bill from further consideration.

Change of Venue – PA-ACP was among the first medical professional organizations to oppose the proposed new court rules that would overturn provisions of the MCARE Act passed as part of a government wide response to exploding medical malpractice premiums in 2002.  The College worked with House and Senate leadership and helped secure passage of legislation requiring a full study by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee before the Court passes a final judgment on the proposal.  Most recently, PA-ACP joined with more than a dozen provider and hospital groups to write the LBFC demanding that data provided in support of our position be included in the Committee’s final report due in December.

Drug Price Transparency - PA-ACP worked with the Senate and House Health and Insurance Committees on this legislation in 2018 and again this spring.  The House is moving two bills, HB 943 and HB 944 that would regulate provision of information by pharmacists and pharmacy benefit managers regarding drug price transparency.

In addition, the Senate has passed SB 351 which increases the penalty for assault on a health care practitioner while performing their duties.

In the House, PA-ACP is supporting legislation that gives deemed MA eligibility to those seeking treatment for substance abuse issues, and legislation that requires insurance companies to demonstrate compliance with federal mental health parity requirements.  We are also working to amend legislation (SB 675) that would have created additional costs and certifications for providers using medically assisted treatments like buprenorphine to help patients with substance abuse problems.

As the session continues, PA-ACP will stay on top of these and other issues that could impact your patients and practices.