Legislative wrap up

The state of healthcare bills in Frankfort.
By Ben Keeton

The beginning of April signifies another legislative session that has come and gone. Though this was a short session, legislators took up a number of bills that directly or indirectly have an effect on the healthcare system. While many of these bills were dead on arrival, there were several surprises along the way. Below is a summary of the health related  bills Medical News tracked this session and the current status at the end of the regular session:

House Bill 217
A bill to amend a law, passed during the 2012 legislative session that cracks down on pain clinics and abuse of prescription pills. The bill helps remedy unintended consequences caused by the law, including unnecessary drug tests and multiple reports for patients in hospitals. This bill passed both the House and the Senate and has been signed by the Governor.

House Bill 172
A bill to encourage schools to carry epinephrine auto-injectors on campus in order to quickly treat the onset of an allergic or “anaphylactic” reaction. The bill also calls upon schools to create an emergency action plan if they choose to carry the medications and ensures that schools have access to auto-injectors. The bill has passed the Senate and the House and is headed to the Governor’s desk.

House Bill 190 
A bill to implement a comprehensive statewide smoke-free law for all indoor workplaces and public places. The bill passed out of a House committee and was reassigned to another committee where it currently sits.

Senate Bill 9 
A bill that would have established a medical review panel process brought against nursing homes in order to help eliminate instances of meritless Senate and is stalled in the House.

Senate Bill 107 
A bill to create a more transparent pharmacies are reimbursed by Pharmacy patients. The bill also allows pharmacies
to appeal the Maximum Allowable Costs (MAC) prices implemented by PBMs to determine reimbursement to the Governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 39
A bill to prohibit Kentucky from participating in the expansion of able Care Act unless authorized by the General Assembly. This bill passed the Senate and has been assigned to a House committee for review.

Senate Bill 40
A bill to prohibit Kentucky from operating a state-based health benef it exchange under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act unless authorized by the General Assembly. This bill passed the Senate and has been assigned to a House committee for review.

Senate Bill 3
A bill to allow faith-based health cost sharing organizations, such as MediShare, to operate in Kentucky by granting them an exemption from the insurance code and recognize electronic transfer of funds as direct member-to-member transactions. This bill passed the Senate and is currently in the House.

Our Analysis
The most impactful legislation was House Bill 217, which was passed by both chambers and signed by the Governor. This bill is an attempt to correct some of the clinical challenges presented by the 2012 Senate Bill 1 (“the pill mill bill”). While this isn’t a perfect bill, it reflects the importance of legislation on the day-to-day practice of healthcare in Kentucky.

As was predicted, Senate Bills 39 and 40, bills aimed at limiting the Governor’s ability to implement major components of the Affordable Care Act, passed the Republican-led Senate but did not make it out of the Democratic led-House. The bill would have been vetoed by the Governor, so it is no surprise that it died a quiet death.

On the other hand, Senate Bill 9, a bill to implement Medical Review Panels to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits against nursing homes, surprised many health professionals when it quickly passed the Senate but stumbled in the House. By all accounts, the bill (or a version of it) would have passed out of the Health & Welfare committee, but Rep. Tom Burch (D) would not allow for a vote on the bill. It will be interesting to see how the healthcare industry responds to the need for some sort of tort or liability reform.

Finally, House Bill 172 passed after a surprisingly contentious battle. Supporters of this bill contend that having the auto injectors on hand will protect children and are not a safety threat. While many insiders felt that this bill would pass quickly and quietly, the teachers unions were vocally opposed to the measure and successfully lobbied to make this an “encouragement” rather than a “requirement.”

As the legislative session comes to a close, a few good bills were passed that will benefit the healthcare providers in
Kentucky, and a few bills were defeated that would have caused additional headaches. While there is still room for
improvement, the healthcare industry lives to fight another day.