Wednesday, March 7, 2012

State House News: March 1 - 7

Peer Review Legislation Passes House Subcommittee

H. 4008 (Harrison, et al) is a bill that addresses a current loophole in an old peer review statute that is allowing trial lawyers to get access to confidential peer review files from hospitals during malpractice trials.  This bill enhances the protections to physicians and hospitals who serve on these committees, keeps the current protection that affected physicians have in place when they are being investigated by these committees, and prevents trial lawyers from getting access to these files in court unless someone testifying provided inconsistent testimony with a prior statement.  The bill was amended at a Judiciary subcommittee hearing last week and passed through the full committee, with amendments agreed to by the SCMA, SC Hospital Association, and the SC Association of Justice (the trial lawyers’ organization).  There is a similar bill that is being considered in the Senate this week.
Telemedicine Reimbursement Legislation Introduced

H.4944 (Crawford, et al), referred to as the “South Carolina Telemedicine Reimbursement Act”, was introduced by Rep. Kris Crawford, MD last week. The bill requires that a physician or other health care provider that performs telemedicine services in a certain manner must be reimbursed for the services in the same manner as in-person consultations. Additionally, the bill provides that the SC Board of Medical Examiners may authorize the provision of additional telemedicine services by means of standard telephone, fax, and unsecured electronic mail that would serve as an exemption the definition of telemedicine as defined in the bill. 
The SCMA has been working with interested parties, including the SC Hospital Association, Office of Rural Health, Academy of Family Physicians (SCAFP), as well as representatives from MUSC, to come to consensus a comprehensive definition of telemedicine and what those services include and do not include.
SCMA and the SCAFP continue to have concerns with the legislation as drafted and ramifications of potentially allowing the eventual dissolution of the physical exam currently required to establish the physician/patient relationship to be replaced with sole communication through electronic means or over the telephone.  While the SCMA is in favor of using technology to enhance access and quality of care, we believe that the redefinition of the physician-patient relationship (which is not necessary to move this bill forward) would be better left to debate outside of the context of an insurance reimbursement bill. 
H.4944 was heard in an LCI subcommittee this week, and after concerns were expressed by Academy of Family Physicians, the Board of Medical Examiners, and the SCMA, the subcommittee decided to adjourn debate on the bill until next week.
Two Veteran Lawmakers to Resign

Senator Greg Ryberg, Chairman of the Senate Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee, has announced he will not seek re-election. The Aiken Republican was elected in 1992, and has been a strong supporter of both Gov. Haley and former Gov. Mark Sanford. Ryberg represents Senate District 24 in Aiken County. Aiken House member Tom Young has announced plans to run for the open seat.
Representative Jim Harrison, longtime Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and the second longest-serving Republican in the SC House, announced last week he will not seek another term in the House.  Harrison said the time has come for someone else to serve, and he looks forward to practicing law. Rep. Harrison was first elected in 1989 and has served as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee since 1994. Harrison serves House District 75 in Richland County.


After several days of filibustering by Sumter Senator Phil Leventis, the Senate confirmed the appointment of Catherine Templeton by a vote of 38-3 to become Commissioner of the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) last week. Templeton, appointed by the DHEC Board with support from Gov. Haley, is currently the Director of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (LLR). 
Subsequently on Friday, Gov. Haley announced the appointment of Holly Gillespie Pisarik as the new Director of the SC LLR. Pisarik currently serves as the Chief Advice Counsel to the agency. Her appointment will also require confirmation from the State Senate.
Bill Introductions

S.1266 (Lourie) – requires supplemental insurance coverage for breast ultrasound screening when a mammogram demonstrates heterogeneous or dense breast tissue, and to require a mammography report including such specific information be provided to the patient who receives the screening.
Referred to Senate Banking and Insurance.
S.1283 (Grooms, et al) – a concurrent resolution to recognize the many contributions made by pregnancy care centers and to commend the compassionate work performed by staff and volunteers at these centers across the state and nation. 
Sent to the House.

Doctors of the Day

Thanks to Wendell James, MD (Greenville), David Garr, MD (Charleston), and Robert Livingston, MD (Charleston) for their volunteer service at the State House last week!