Wednesday, May 29, 2013

State House News: May 22-28

There are 5 days left in the regular legislative session.
Doctors of the Day

Thanks to Wendell James, MD (Greenville), Tim Pearce, MD, SCMA President-Elect (Beaufort), and Coy Irvin, MD (Florence) for their volunteer service at the State House last week!

After Nearly 3 Weeks, the Senate Passes Budget Bill During Late Night Session

After weeks of contentious discussion, but no headway, the Senate buckled down late last Thursday and gave second reading to the FY 2013-14 Appropriations Bill, H.3710. After a failed attempt to expand Medicaid by accepting federal funds and a failed counter effort to nullify any utilization of insurance exchanges or other provisions of ACA, most of the hotly contested issues involving funding for local government, road improvements, school buses and school choice were negotiated.
After taking individual votes on each section of the comprehensive bill, a day-long process, the Senate gave the bill its final reading yesterday by a vote of 34-7.  With just five days left in the session, and the House and Senate budget conferees (3 members of each body) still needing to work out the differences between the two versions and submit the bill to the Governor for vetoes, it seems likely the legislative session will continue into the summer.  
Some highlights of this year’s budget bill include:

  • $83 million for a series of health care priorities referred to Healthy Outcome Initiatives;
  • $8 million for MUSC telemedicine program;
  • $23.5 million for new school buses; and
  • $50 million to improve state roads and bridges.
Telemedicine Bill Heard in House Subcommittee

S.290 (Cleary, others), the “SC Telemedicine Act” was heard in a House LCI subcommittee last week, but no action was taken. The subcommittee, comprised of Reps. Kris Crawford, MD (Chair), Todd Atwater, Grady Brown, Shannon Erickson, Deborah Long, Mike Gambrell, Carl Anderson and Bill Sandifer, heard testimony from Sen. Ray Cleary (R-Georgetown) who advocated the bill through the Senate, Dr. Bob Adams (MUSC), Dr. Jimmy McElligott (MUSC), and Jim Ritchie (SC Alliance of Health Plans), all who spoke in favor of the bill as drafted.
The bill’s main goal is to increase patients’ access to care by taking advantage of emerging technology and communications in the field of telemedicine. It creates a pilot program within the State Health Plan, providing for reimbursement in certain settings and creates an advisory committee to evaluate and review the practice of telemedicine in the state as it relates to insurance, access, and medical effectiveness. 
During the Senate budget process, Sen. Cleary also introduced a proviso to enact the pilot project in the event S.290 did not pass the General Assembly this year. The proviso was adopted and will take affect this year if included in the final version of the budget bill.
The subcommittee adjourned before taking formal action on S.290.
Senate Returns Concussion Legislation to House 

H.3061 (McCoy, others), a bill heavily advocated by the NFL, the SC Children’s Law Center, MUSC Children’s Hospital, Brain Injury Association of SC, and worked on comprehensively by the SCMA, was amended in the full Senate last week and sent back to the House for concurrence.
The legislation, designed to create educational awareness and protocol concerning head injuries in student athletes, requires educational material, including nationally recognized guidelines and procedures regarding the identification and management of suspected concussions in student athletes, to be posted by DHEC on its website. This information, reflective of current medical literature, will be provided by members of the sports medicine community including, but not limited to, the SCMA, Brain Injury Association of SC, the SC Athletic Trainer's Association, the National Federation of High Schools, the CDC, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The language also directs DHEC to post continuing education opportunities in concussion management being offered by provider groups on its website upon receipt of such information by the entities offering the course(s). The bill also specifies which health care providers may make an initial assessment of an athlete suspected of a concussion and requires that any final return-to-play decision must be made in writing by a medical doctor.
H.3061 is expected to be considered by the House this week for final approval. To view the bill in its entirety, click here.
Introductions of Interest

H. 4179 (Atwater) - relates to the prohibition of using a wireless telecommunications device while operating a motor vehicle.
Referred to House Education & Public Works Committee.
H. 4223 (Nanney, others) - enacts the “South Carolina Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act”.  Referred to House Judiciary Committee.
H. 4225 – (Jefferson, others) - creates the Hospital Costs Disparity Study Committee relating to procedures billed to Medicare. 
Referred to House 3M Committee.