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Health Care Issues for the 2014 Legislative Session

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Since my first hot topic began with Smoke Free Kentucky in January, I believe I will begin where I left off. HB173 passed the House Health and Welfare Committee on Thursday February 6th and is awaiting floor vote mid-February. This is the fourth year the bill has been filed but it appears we have finally reached a tipping point as a result of the whirlwind of effort by many individuals and groups such as the KMA, the Kentucky State Chamber of Commerce, Kentucky Health Departments and Health Boards, all medical specialists that deal with the aftermath of secondhand smoke, Kentucky Youth Advocates, Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, Cooperative Extension Agents in Kentucky, and far too many to list in a limited space.

We still have far to go. Senator Julie Denton filed a companion bill to HB173 in the Senate, however the President of the Senate is opposed to the bill and sent it to the Judiciary Committee with the hope it will not be voted out of the committee. This is where the outrage of supporters would be very beneficial! I hope you can help by calling all members of the Senate Leadership.

FYI … I was invited to the White House press conference by our U.S. Surgeon General Lushniak, Dr. Tom Fielden, Director of the CDC, and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to celebrate the 50 Years of Progress since tobacco was identified to cause cancer. What an incredible experience for me!

Other bills of interest include HB 98, a bill allowing students self-treatment of diabetes symptoms in school settings or treatment by a trained staff person, who has completed a training program by the American Diabetes Association. It did pass the House after two years of debate and is now referred to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

You may be aware of HB157, a bill filed by Rep. Addia Wuchner and myself for the second time, which was requested by the Child Death Review Panel. This bill provides 60 minutes of continuing education on the recognition and prevention of pediatric abuse head trauma for pediatricians, radiologists, family practitioners, emergency medicine and urgent care physicians. At the same time, it sunsets the mandatory HIV training since that topic is now covered in medical schools. HB 157 passed the House and has been sent to the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee.

Several bills have been filed for the protection of vulnerable adults, which include an adult abuse registry as well as the requirement of a National and State Background Check Program for prospective employees of long-term care facilities.

The KMA lobbying team and ARNP’s worked diligently over the summer to come to an agreement on physician collaborative agreements. SB 7 filed by Senator Hornback glided through the Senate early in the session, passed the House easily, and was signed by the Governor on February 6, 2014. You may recall that this is an issue that was debated at least four years. Great job docs and lobbyists!!

Physician Assistants were represented in SB 41 sponsored by Senator Tom Buford. This bill requires a supervising physician to review and countersign at least 10 percent of the medical notes written by the PA every 30 days. This bill passed the Senate and is now in the House Health and Welfare Committee.

SB119 was filed to establish a Medical Review Panel system for use in civil litigation relating to nursing homes and health care providers. It has been sent to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. Last year the same bill came to the House Health and Welfare Committee but was not heard. If this bill is to be taken seriously, it should be sent to the Judiciary Committee for full vetting.

Several medical cannabis bills have been filed to legalize medical marijuana. SB43 and HB 350 have been filed to permit the dispensing and use of pharmaceutical-grade cannabadiol oil for the treatment of certain debilitating conditions. Parents of children who have autism or who seizure hundreds of times day, as well as patients with Glaucoma, Epilepsy, and Muscular Dystrophy have been visiting legislators to share their stories. Now that the issue is here, I do not expect it to go away. I hope the medical community will learn along with us in Frankfort in order to assist in guiding the conversation.

This is a new one for me. Senator Tom Buford introduced a bill to license Acupuncturists. SB 29 has passed the Senate and was sent to the Licensing and Occupations committee. Another interesting bill was filed by Senator Julie Denton. SB52 would allow health professionals to charge $25.00 to Medicaid patients for missed appointments.

We did hear great news about a settlement from two pharmaceutical companies for $32 million. Attorney General Jack Conway and Governor Beshear have agreed this windfall should be dedicated for drug treatment in Kentucky. Kentucky has one of the worst prescription drug problems in the country and heroin has become a drug of choice since HB1 created tougher laws and enforcement against pill mills. This money is critical to provide care in drug abuse treatment programs.

During a regular 60-day session, on average 1,300 bills are filed, but very, very few pass. Our committees meet once a week, and the number of bills heard in two hours is very limited. We cannot file any new bills after the end February, so it is easy to see why the legislative process can be so slow. I always say that if you pass a bill the first year, it is a miracle, since the vast majority take two to three.

Susan Westrom (D) was elected as State Representative of the 79th district in Lexington, KY in November 1998. Westrom sits on the House Standing Committee on Health & Welfare as well as Agriculture; Appropriations & Revenue; BR Sub-committee on Economic Development & Tourism; Natural Resources & Environmental Protection; Horse Farming (co-chair); Licensing and Occupations (Vice Chair).