The 2013-2014 Pennsylvania legislative session was a success for the physician assistant profession. With the support of our membership, we were able to attain the passage of 6 bills that will enhance the PA practice in our Commonwealth. Thank you to everyone who participated in contacting their legislators asking for support of our measures. Particular thanks goes out to our lobbyist and legislative affairs group, Milliron & Goodman, LLC. Without their hard work, none of this would have been possible. Here is recap of this past legislative session:
House Bill: 939: Amended the Public Utilities Act for new rules to authorize physician assistants to sign health forms to delay utility shut off for health reasons. We have tried for many years to open a public utility bill that we could amend to allow PAs to certify the health status of individuals and prevent utility shut off. There are very few times that bills like this will move during any given legislative session. The Society and our lobbyists monitored several public utility bills for movement over the past two years and HB 939 became the vehicle. We were able to amend the language to allow PAs to finally sign health certifications and prevent utility shut off.
Senate Bill 1180: Establishes the Pharmaceutical Accountability Monitoring System. This bill creates a database of patients and practitioners who have been prescribed controlled substances allowing providers and law enforcement agencies to cross reference all controlled substance prescriptions given to a patient in an attempt to control diversion and addiction. Physician assistants are included among the providers who may access the system. Regulations will need to be promulgated to enforce the new law. That process will begin next year and is slated to be completed in 2015. We will keep you updated as those regulations move forward.
House Bill 1655: Establishes the Patient-Centered Medical Home Advisory Council with the charge of developing a statewide medical home model. Physician Assistants are included as members of the council and permitted to lead a Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH). Many practices in the state already have a PCMH in place. These systems promote wellness, prevention, chronic care management, immunizations, health care management and the use of electronic medical records in providing patient care. Reimbursement incentives are in place as part of the Patient Access and Portability Health Care Act for establishing a PCMH. The council will be established over the next several months with recommendations to the Governor, Senate and House of Representatives due by December 31, 2015.
Senate Bill 379: An Act which provides for a benevolent gesture relating to medical liability insurance. This new law prevents most physician/provider apologies from being used against admissible in a medical liability lawsuit. It does not include admissions of negligence, which remain admissible. You are permitted to say you are sorry for their injury or loss and that cannot be held against you in a court of law.
House Bill 1348 & 1351: These bills that amended countersignature regulations for both the Allopathic and Osteopathic Medical Boards. Special thanks goes to Representative Curt Sonney (Erie) for sponsoring this legislation. The Medical Board has implemented the internal process of approving amended work agreements. The Osteopathic Board has been slower to adapt and approve the written agreement change forms. The Society continues to educate the board along with legal counsel in complying with the new law.
The Society along with Milliron & Goodman will continue to work toward additional improvements in legislation and regulations over the next 2 year legislative cycle to improve PA practice in our Commonwealth. We also be focusing on reimbursement issues and participation in all commercial and state funded programs. If you have any questions or see areas that need attention to improve our PA practice enviroment, please contact the Society.
Mark DeSantis, PAC
Chairman, Governmental Affairs