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Pa. Lawmakers Consider Several Key Health Bills

June 12, 2024

State lawmakers across House and Senate committees advanced several notable bills for hospitals related to the workforce, price transparency, professional licensure, and other key topics.

Here’s a roundup of legislative action from today:

Supporting the workforce

Pennsylvania’s physician and nurse licensure compacts have been in regulatory limbo for years, as state and federal officials address bureaucratic issues that have prevented the compacts from moving forward.

This morning, the House Professional Licensure Committee unanimously advanced House Bill 2381 and Senate Bill 1165. The respective bills would grant temporary rulemaking authority for boards implementing compacts and update background check requirements for professional licensure in health care.

The bills are part of the legislative process to enable the compacts to advance. HAP continues to work with state and federal stakeholders to ensure the compacts are fully implemented.

In addition, the committee unanimously advanced House Bill 2294 and House Bill 2295, which would make it easier for physician assistants to work with both allopathic physicians (MD) and osteopathic physicians (DO).

“HAP supports every effort to remove any requirement that may impede a well-qualified provider’s ability to care for patients. Regulatory burden can slow—or, in worst-case scenarios, prevent—a medical professional’s ability to treat patients,” HAP’s letter of support said.

Nurse education

The Senate Professional Licensure Committee unanimously advanced Senate Bill 1251. The HAP-supported legislation updates Pennsylvania’s nursing law to allow for both regionally and nationally accredited programs to offer registered nurse (RN) education.

“The U.S. Department of Education eliminated the distinction between regional and national accreditation during 2019,” HAP said in a letter of support. “Senate Bill 1251 would help the Pennsylvania Nursing Law—which currently only recognizes regionally accredited institutions—to conform with current policies.

Price transparency

This morning, the House Health committee advanced House Bill 2339, which would add state-level oversight based on Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) price transparency rules.

The bill advanced 20–4, with Representatives Tim Bonner (R-Mercer/Butler), Arvind Venkat (D-Allegheny), Tim Twardzik (R-Schuylkill), and Paul Schemel (R-Franklin) voting no. Lawmakers noted the bill duplicates federal oversight on price transparency and called it a “first step” as the bill moves ahead for consideration.

In a letter this week, HAP opposed the bill, noting that it adds another layer of requirements and penalties on top of the existing federal price transparency mandates. The HAP letter also emphasized the steps hospitals are taking to comply with new federal requirements.

“Hospitals are currently working hard to expand or adjust their machine-readable files to comply with the new CMS template, data specifications, and data dictionary, effective July 1. It is our understanding that, in doing so, it will be easier to more accurately interpret, compare, and assess compliance,” HAP said in a letter of opposition. “Now is simply not the time to impose new and different requirements.”

Electronic Medical Records

The House Judiciary Committee advanced House Bill 2198, which would cap the total cost of obtaining charts or medical records that are maintained in an electronic format at $200, regardless of whether the requestor is a patient. The bill was amended this morning to raise the limit from $6.50.

This week, HAP had expressed concerns about the bill, saying the proposed $6.50 cap was not “sufficient to cover the relevant staff time necessary to receive and validate a request, query a database, quality assure a response, and communicate with a requestor.“

Representative Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin) said more input was needed to determine a reasonable cost for obtaining electronic records.

Maternal Home Visiting

The House Human Services Committee re-referred House Bill 1425 to the Committee on Children and Youth.

The bill would direct the state to establish a five-year plan to expand Pennsylvania’s maternal home visiting program to cover all 67 counties in the commonwealth.

“HAP supports expanding and collaborating with existing, evidence-based home visiting programs,” HAP said in a letter. “Such programs have shown positive impact on reducing incidences of child abuse and neglect; improvement in birth outcomes, such as decreased pre-term births and low-birthweight babies; improved school readiness for children; and increased high school graduation rates for mothers participating in the program.”

For additional information about HAP’s state advocacy on behalf of the hospital community, contact Heather Tyler, vice president, state legislative advocacy.