PA-ACP Advocacy Successes, 2020, 2021
It’s a fair question to ask, “What have you done for me lately?” Since early 2020, many of the PA-ACP advocacy efforts have been focused on issues relating to Covid-19, the opioid epidemic, and solving issues for physicians and patients. Here’s short list of some advocacy successes PA-ACP had, working for you in the state Capitol.
- Passage of legislation to expand ability of seniors to access PACE, PACENet programs, expanding the program to more than 20,000 additional recipients. Wolf also signed bipartisan bill HB 1260, now Act 94, increasing income limits for PA's prescription drug program for seniors by $6,000, to $33,500 for single individuals and $41,500 for married couples. The act also eliminates the requirement for PACENET cardholders not enrolled in Medicare Part D to pay a monthly benchmark premium. A second bill, HB 291, now Act 92, protects thousands of additional seniors from losing PACE and PACENET eligibility due to Social Security COLA increases through 2023. Prescription benefits for nearly 18,000 seniors would have been reduced or eliminated without legislative action, and the two laws protect access to coverage and expanded eligibility for an additional 20,000 older Pennsylvanians.
- Extension of COVID-19 Waivers. House Bill 1861 became law and is not Act 73 of 2021. PA-ACP supported the legislation in the General Assembly and asked the Governor to sign it. The act extends waivers on hundreds of regulations put in place due to the COVID pandemic and another intended to help continue combating the opioid epidemic. The Chapter had, in 2020, pushed for licensing changes, retired physician licensing, expansion of telemedicine and waiving of prior authorization as examples. The list of regulations and policies that are impacted is available online.
· Informed Consent. In June 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled, in a 4-3 decision that physicians must personally obtain a patient's informed consent, increasing liability. The court also ruled that communications between a physician's qualified staff members and patients will no longer be admissible at trial to establish whether the physician obtained informed consent. PA-ACP supported legislation (SB 425) that corrected this ruling by the Court and reinstated the team concept and physician decision-making.
- Blocked several pieces of legislation that would have negatively impacted the use of medically assisted treatments for SUD. SB-675: would have required duplicative licensure requirements (plus additional $500 fee) to prescribe buprenorphine in PA. HB-386: would have required the Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs' to continue to use client placement criteria developed by PA for Medicaid recipients needing drug and/or alcohol treatment, rather than more scientifically-supported criteria, which other states currently use. And HB-1662: would have added Suboxone- and buprenorphine-related deaths & incidents to the Methadone Death & Incident Review Act.PA-ACP provided testimony and worked with the Human Services Committee and legislative leadership to block the first two and amend the third.
- Passed legislation (Act 78 and Act 79) reforming physician assistant licensing. Amendments supported by PA-ACP gave physicians the ability to refuse supervision of more than four Physician Assistants without fear of liability, retribution by hospital, health system, practice group.
- Secured full Medical Assistance funding for Academic Medical Centers for three straight years. PA-ACP was successful in efforts to reinstate this funding, despite Governor Wolf proposing reductions in state funding of more than 29% each year.
- Extension of the ABC-MAP program and PDMP. HB 1774 extends, now Act 72 of 2021 extends the Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions program and PDMP, which had been set to expire in June 2022. The program now runs through the end of 2028.
- Prevented passage of legislation to expand scope of practice beyond training for midlevel providers. SB 25 would have given advanced practice nurses independent practice, and SB 511 would have significantly expanded pharmacists’ scope of practice, giving them continuing authority to administer more vaccinations, injections, biologicals, and to adjust medications for patients.
- Creation of a state level insurance exchange, saving patients money and expanding funds available for MA, CHIP programs from insurers. PA-ACP called for state ACA health insurance markets oversight; and establishing the Pennsylvania Health Insurance Exchange Fund. Passage of the legislation resulted in raising between $198 and $248 million per year to operate the new state program and reduce insurance premiums in the individual market by 5% to 10% from the rates using the federal exchange.