Thursday, May 23, 2013

State House News: May 14 - 21

Doctors of the Day

Thanks to James McCoy, MD (Charleston), Patricia Witherspoon, MD, E. J. Mayeaux, MD, and Jamie King, 1st year Resident (Columbia), and William Jones, MD (Greenville) for their volunteer service at the State House last week!
Physician Assistants Bill Signed Into Law

S.448 (Alexander), a collaborative effort between the SCMA and its physician groups, the Board of Medical Examiners (BME), and the SC Academy of Physician Assistants, has been signed into law by Gov. Haley.
The much-discussed legislation broadens PAs’ current practice and streamlines the regulatory processes they observe under the BME. The bill in summary does the following:

  • Does not allow for independent PA practice or remove regulation by the BME;
  • Still requires written scope of practice guidelines agreed upon by the supervising physician and PA to be approved by the BME;
  • Allows for increased physician determination of PA scope of practice as related to advanced medical tasks and functions;
  • No longer requires supervising physician presence during PA interview with the BME;
  •  Increases the supervisory ratio of PA to physician by allowing the physician to employ up to three full-time equivalent PAs and to supervise 3 PAs providing care within a practice at a time (current law allows two);
  • Increases distance supervision by expanding the current distance restriction from 45 miles to 60 miles for off-site supervision;
  • Allows PAs to prescribe for Schedule II medications, if allowed by the supervising physician and approved by the BME, within strict parameters.
To read the bill in its entirety, click here.
Medicaid Expansion Attempt Fails in Full Senate

With early adjournment and few votes last week, the Senate made very little headway in passing its version of the 2013-14 General Appropriations bill. Those senators unhappy with the Senate Finance Committee passed plan slowed progress by offering numerous amendments to the bill and arguing procedural measures. Much of the debate revolved around amendments to increase revenues for highway infrastructure, school buses, and selling the state-owned plane often used by the Governor and legislators.
The much-anticipated Medicaid expansion battle was saved for this week and after several hours of passionate speeches and contested debate on Tuesday, an amendment to accept federal ACA funds and expand Medicaid in SC was tabled by a vote of 23-19. Senators Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg), Nikki Setzler (D-Lexington), Joel Lourie (D-Richland), Ray Cleary (R-Georgetown), and others spoke in favor of the expansion amendment. Senators Tom Davis (R-Beaufort), Thomas Alexander (R-Oconee), and Chip Campsen (R- Charleston) spoke against the measure.  Click here for a complete vote tally.
Currently, much of the health care funding within the budget bill is supplied through an $83 million plan referred to “Healthy Outcomes Initiatives”, which includes funding for the Rural Physicians Program, rural hospitals, MUSC’s telemedicine program and other priorities.
The Senate’s work on the budget bill continues this week as the clock winds down on the legislative session. The Senate must still pass the appropriations bill, both bodies must meet in conference committee to agree on a mutual version and deliver the bill to the governor for approval. The Legislature will likely have to return in June to address vetoes.
Pulse Oximetry Legislation Advances to House

S.341, or the “Emerson Rose Act” introduced by Sen. Thomas Alexander (Oconee), received a favorable report by the full House 3M Committee Tuesday and will be considered by the House soon.
The bill, named in honor of an infant who passed away due to an undetected heart defect, requires all birthing facilities to perform pulse oximetry screenings on newborns within 24-48 hours of birth, or as late as possible if being discharged before reaching 24 hours old. Once opposed by the SC Hospital Association, negotiations have been reached and the bill requires DHHS to work with the state Birth Outcomes Initiative to promulgate regulations and other recommendations for the testing.
Introductions of Interest

H. 4145 (Goldfinch, others) - extends immunity from liability to the employer of persons who render emergency care at the scene of an accident or emergency for performing life-saving procedures, including CPR. Referred to House Judiciary Committee.
S. 695 (Campbell, others) - relates to exemptions from the CON Review in regard to mental health services, by exempting a change in existing bed complement of a general hospital through the addition of one or more beds used exclusively for mental health services.  Referred to the Senate Medical Affairs Committee.