Legislative Update - 4/25/2011

Today starts the beginning of conference committees at the Indiana Statehouse. Conference committees are the fastest moving, and tend to be the most confusing, part of the legislative session. The pace is elevated this year because the state has only five days to finish conference committees and pass final legislation, a process that generally takes two to three weeks.

At this point in session, bills that are still alive are in one of three situations:

1.     If the bill has passed both houses and had no amendments in its second house (the language that passed the first house is the same as that which passed the second house), the bill is sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature or veto.

2.     If the bill has passed both houses, but the bill was amended in its second house, the bill returns to its house of origin. The original author of the bill choses whether to consent or dissent to the changes made to the bill. If the author consents to the changes, the bill then must be voted on again by the first house and no amendments are allowed at that time. If the bill passes, it is sent to the Governor’s desk.

3.     If the bill has passed both houses, but the bill was amended in its second house, the bill returns to its house of origin. The original author of the bill choses whether to consent or dissent to the changes made to the bill. If the author dissents, a conference committee, which is comprised of four voting members, (represented by each party and chamber), is convened. The conference committee meets to decide what should be included in the final bill. Then the final bill will be sent to both the House and the Senate for another vote, with no amendments allowed. If the bill passes both houses it is sent to the Governor’s desk.

As the last minutes of session wind down, bills that have failed to make it past procedural deadlines are amended into legislation that is still alive. This lessens the number of bills, but the bills more complex as you will see from the summaries of legislation still surviving.

House Bill 1001
The budget for the state of Indiana has passed both the House and the Senate but the original author, Ways and Means Chairman Jeff Espich, has dissented to the Senate changes, so a conference committee will be formed. The current bill does contain the Family Medicine Residency funding at $1.9 million a year. However, the bill cuts tobacco prevention dollars to $5 million and moves all the functions of the successful Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation (ITPC) agency to the State Department of Health.  We hope to maintain Family Medicine Residency funding and save ITPC during conference committee.

House Bill 1171
This legislation requires the Office of Medicaid Policy and Planning (OMPP) to create a single system that a physician can use to verify the eligibility of a Medicaid patient. It also requires OMPP to institute all coding changes within 90 days of their release from CMS. The bill was passed by both houses and signed by the Governor.

House Bill 1071
This legislation mandates that only a physician who performs a pathology service can bill for the pathology service. It has been sent to conference committee.

House Bill 1129
This bill originated as a ban on texting while driving, however, it now also bans using any telecommunications devices while driving. It has been sent to conference committee.

House Bill 1233
This bill has been amended several times since it was introduced. It now contains provisions that clarify supervision of physician assistants. Senate Bill 1233 would limit a physician assistant to practicing only when their supervising physician is in the office or in the county of or contiguous county of the practice. Current law stated that the supervising physician could be at any health care facility or traveling to any health care facility for the physician assistant to practice, which was confusing and broad. The bill increases the number of hours a physician has to review physician assistant charts to 72 hours (currently a physician only has 24 hours).  The bill also includes a provision that allows physicians in the office setting to hire and supervise a pharmacist.  The bill’s author has dissented and the bill will be sent to conference committee.

Senate Bill 363
This legislation includes a provision that requires all professionals seeking an initial Indiana health care license to submit themselves to a national background check. The bill also clarifies supervision of physician assistants (the same as in House Bill 1233) and makes changes to chart review requirements for physicians supervising a physician assistant. Current law requires that 100% of physician assistant charts must be reviewed in 24 hours, this bill would change the law to require 100% reviewed in 72 hours in the first year of employment, 50% reviewed in 72 hours in the second year of employment, and 25% be reviewed in 72 hours in the third year. The bill’s author dissented and the bill is being sent to conference committee.

Senate Bill 366
This much anticipated legislation would remove the misdemeanor penalty for physicians failing to timely file a death certificate. No penalties could be enforced until 2012 and, after that time, it will be at the discretion of the medical licensing board. Senate Bill 366 also allows a physician enrolled in a residency to sign a death certificate, which was previously illegal.  The bill’s author dissented and the bill will be sent to conference committee.