New healthcare laws take effect


By Ben Keeton

With the Republican party in control of the Governor’s office as well as the state legislature, several bills that have been stalled for years finally passed and were signed into law by Governor Matt Bevin. Many of these bills went into effect on Thursday, June 29.

The Kentucky Constitution specifies that new laws take effect 90 days after the adjournment of the legislature unless they have a special effective date, are general appropriations measures, or include an emergency clause that makes them effective immediately upon becoming law. Final adjournment of the 2017 Regular Session was on March 30, making June 29 the normal effective date for most bills.

Many of the laws taking effect now have impacts on the healthcare system, including:

Medical Review Panels: SB 4 establishes an independent medical review panel system which allows a board of experts to deliver an opinion on whether the standard of care was breached in medical malpractice cases. The bill has been long sought after for the healthcare industry and is intended to help lower healthcare costs by reducing the number of frivolous lawsuits.

Hospitals: SB 42 allows law enforcement to arrest someone for fourth-degree assault in any part of a hospital without a warrant if the officer has probable cause that the crime was committed. Such arrests were previously restricted to hospital emergency rooms.

Primary Care Agreements: SB 79 allows patients to enter into contracts with their primary care provider that spell out services to be provided for an agreed-upon fee and time period. The “direct primary care membership agreement” will not require a patient to forfeit private insurance or Medicaid.

Smoking Cessation: SB 89 removes barriers that limit patient access to evidence-based cessation treatments. The bill requires commercial health plans and Medicaid plans in Kentucky to provide barrier-free coverage for all tobacco cessation treatments approved by the FDA and recommended by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force.

Caregivers: SB 129 allows hospital patients to legally designate someone as a “lay caregiver” for providing after-care to the patient when he or she returns home. The lay caregiver can be someone age 18 or older who is a relative, partner, friend or someone else who is close to the patient and willing to provide non-medical care at the patient’s home.

Licensure of Genetic Counselors: SB 146 will give the State Board of Medical Licensure new terms for establishing and administering the licensure of genetic counselors. The State Board will begin requiring a license to practice genetic counseling on and after January 1, 2018.

Truth in Advertising: SB 150 will restrict trial lawyers from using potentially misleading survey results in advertisements against healthcare provides. The bill states that the results of a survey, inspection, or investigation of a long-term care facility conducted by any state or federal department or agency, including all statements of deficiencies, findings of deficiency, and all plans of correction, cannot be used in an advertisement. The intent of the bill is to reduce the false and defamatory personal injury lawyer ads against Kentucky’s nursing homes.

90-day RX Fill: SB 205 will allow certain drugs to be dispensed up to a 90-day supply. This measure is intended to benefit chronic disease patients by requiring less trips to the pharmacy.

Optometry Annual License Renewal Fee: HB 239 will require optometrists to pay the Kentucky Board of Optometric Examiners an annual license renewal fee to continue their practice.

Nurse Licensure Compact: HB 304 establishes new guidelines for other jurisdictions to enact and enter the nurse licensure compact. Most notably, the measure will recognize a multistate licensure privilege to practice for registered nurses or practical nurses.

Fentanyl and Other Opioids: HB 333 will create stronger penalties for trafficking in any amount of heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil or fentanyl derivatives, define prescribing authority, and allow the state to investigate prescribing irregularities and report those instances to appropriate authorities.