Donate Life PA Act Passes Senate

On Tuesday, June 20th, in a 43-6 vote, the Pennsylvania Senate passed State Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf’s Donate Life PA Act, SB 180, to help increase organ and tissue donation in the Commonwealth.

One person in Pennsylvania dies every 18 hours while waiting for an organ transplant.  Today, over 8,000 people in our state are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.  More await life-improving cornea, tissue and bone marrow transplants.

This is a health crisis in need of immediate action.  As organ transplant medicine advances, the Commonwealth must update its laws to accommodate the most modern and best practices. 

SB 180 would ensure that more viable organs reach the patients in need and it would increase public education about the need for donors.  Sometimes people never get the chance to give the gift of organ or tissue donation – even if they are registered – because too much time has passed before donation is considered or authorized.

The Donate Life PA Act would improve the communication process between county coroners or medical examiners and organ procurement organizations.  At the same time, the bill includes specific rules to ensure that organ donation will never interfere with a criminal investigation.

The bill would also protect every donor’s wishes by allowing someone with power of attorney to authorize donation.   If the intent of the dying person is not clear, the bill sets forth the procedure to contact family and caregivers to learn the person’s intent with regard to organ donation. 

In May of 2016, SB 180 passed by the Senate by large majority, but was not considered in the House.

Senator Greenleaf said, “Every day, doctors tell patients that they are simply not going to live without an organ transplant.  Parents receive horrible news that their child isn’t going to survive without a transplant.  SB 180 is desperately needed by these patients to give more people a greater chance of surviving.  This legislation is a fight for their lives.”

SB 180 has now been referred to the House of Representatives.

More information about the Donate Life PA Act and organ donation can be found at www.senatorgreenleaf.com/organ-donation.  The site features stories of several Pennsylvanians who have received anatomical gifts and how organ donation has saved their lives or those of their children.

Contact:

Aaron Zappia (215) 657-7700
azappia@pasen.gov

Department of Health: Hospital and Healthsystem Preparedness

Joint Hearing

 Senate Health and Human Services
and
Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee

Wednesday, June 14, 2017
9:00 a.m.
Hearing Room #1 North Office Building

 

Call to Order & Pledge of Allegiance by Chairman Vulakovich

Welcome & Introductions
*Senator Randy Vulakovich, Chair
Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee

*Senator Jay Costa, Democrat Chair
Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee

*Senator Lisa Baker, Chair
Senate Health & Human Services Committee

*Senator Judith Schwank, Democrat Chair
Senate Health & Human Services Committee

Hearing on the Department of Health:  Hospital and Healthsystem Preparedness

9:10 a.m.
Ray Barishansky, Deputy Secretary for Health Planning & Assessment PA Department of Health

9:30 a.m.
Richard Flinn, Jr., Director (Invited) PA Emergency Management Agency

9:50 a.m.
Tom Grace, Vice President for Emergency Preparedness Hospital Association of PA – Attachment

10:10 a.m.
Matthew Linse, Emergency Services Liaison (Invited) Saint Vincent Hospital/Allegheny Health Network Northwest PA Health Care Coalition

Adjournment

PA Regional Task Forces (Map)

Senate Approves Full Practice Authority for Nurse Practitioners

 

HARRISBURG – The Senate took a critical step to improve access to quality healthcare services in rural areas by approving a bill today that would give full practice authority to Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46).

Senate Bill 25 would modernize the Professional Nursing Law to permit qualified APRNs to practice in their field of specialty independent of a physician after they fulfill a three-year, 3,600-hour collaboration agreement with a doctor. Current law requires nurse practitioners to practice under a collaboration agreement at all times.

“Pennsylvania is fortunate to have a high number of qualified, experienced nurse practitioners who are fully capable of providing care in underserved areas,” Bartolotta said. “This legislation will allow APRNs to help patients to the fullest extent of their knowledge and training, which will provide a huge benefit to patients.”

Bartolotta noted that APRNs are perfectly suited to help meet the growing demand for health care services, as studies have shown that patients who are treated by APRNs have similar health outcomes to patients who are treated by physicians. Nearly 35 percent of Pennsylvanians live in an area or population group that has inadequate primary care access.

Several statewide and national advocacy organizations have voiced their support for full practice authority for nurse practitioners, including the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, the National Academy of Medicine, AARP, the National Governors’ Association, and the Pennsylvania Organization of Nurse Leaders.

Twenty-two states and Washington, D.C. have already adopted full practice authority for APRNs. The Senate approved legislation similar to Bartolotta’s bill during the 2015-16 Legislative Session. 

Listen

 

CONTACT: Colleen Greer (717) 787-1463

 

Proposal Advances to Provide Early Intervention for Postpartum Depression

HARRISBURG – The Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved legislation today that would extend early intervention services to newborn and infant children of mothers affected by postpartum depression (PPD), according to Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46).

Pennsylvania already has a monitoring system in place to protect infants who suffer from certain medical conditions such as low birth weight or lead poisoning, as well as those born into potentially dangerous environments, including children born to chemically dependent mothers, homeless children and infants who suffer from abuse and neglect.

Senate Bill 200 would add PPD to the list of conditions that are monitored through the existing state program to determine families in need of assessments, tracking and early intervention services.

The American Psychological Association estimates that more than one in seven new mothers experience PPD. The condition can adversely affect a baby’s cognitive development, and carries an increased risk of abuse and neglect.

“Postpartum depression can have a profound effect on new mothers and their children, and the consequences on families can be crippling,” Bartolotta said. “Pennsylvania already has a system to monitor children and families who are at risk. Adding postpartum depression to the list of conditions that qualify for monitoring will ensure all families get access to the services they need.”

About 21,000 babies and mothers in Pennsylvania annually are believed to suffer from PPD, and the American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all mothers be screened for the condition.

Bartolotta introduced the bill along with Senator Judy Schwank (D-11).

Listen

 

CONTACT: Colleen Greer (717) 787-1463

McIlhinney Resolution Recognizes Efforts of Amputees

 

HARRISBURG – The Senate passed a resolution today that recognizes the efforts of Pennsylvanians who have been affected by limb loss, according to the resolution’s sponsor, Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-10).

The resolution designates April 2017 as Limb Loss Awareness Month in Pennsylvania. The designation is part of a nationwide movement to raise awareness of the struggles faced by people affected by limb loss.

“Even the most advanced prosthetic devices require numerous adjustments and frequent replacements, and the constant process of trial and error in fitting and using these devices can be disheartening and financially distressing not only for the individual, but also for their family,” McIlhinney said. “The general public is often unaware of the challenges faced by the amputee community.”

McIlhinney noted that several members of his staff have family members who have undergone amputations. According to the Amputee Coalition of America, a national non-profit organization dedicated to supporting those who are affected by limb loss, more than 2 million Americans have experienced amputation or were born with limb difference. Each day, more than 500 U.S. residents lose a limb.

McIlhinney offered remarks regarding his resolution during Senate session. 

CONTACT: Heather Cevasco (215) 489-5000

Senate Panel Endorses Full Practice Authority for Nurse Practitioners

HARRISBURG – The Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee approved a bill today that would remove unnecessary state barriers that prevent Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) from offering a wider variety of services to patients.

Senate Bill 25, sponsored by Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46), would modernize the Professional Nursing Law to permit qualified APRNs to practice in their field of specialty independent of a physician after they fulfill a three-year, 3,600-hour collaboration agreement with a doctor.

“Many rural communities are suffering from a severe shortage of doctors, and the expansion of Medicaid has created an even larger patient population for a dwindling number of physicians,” Bartolotta said. “APRNs are uniquely qualified to meet the growing demand for services. We just need to allow nurses to treat patients to the fullest extent of their knowledge, training and education.”

Nearly 35 percent of Pennsylvanians live in an area or population group that has inadequate primary care access.

Several statewide and national advocacy organizations have voiced their support for full practice authority for nurse practitioners, including the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, the National Academy of Medicine, AARP and the National Governors’ Association. Bartolotta took part in a rally in support of the legislation earlier today.

Twenty-two states and Washington, D.C. have already adopted full practice authority for APRNs. The Senate approved legislation similar to Bartolotta’s during the 2015-16 Legislative Session. 

AUDIO:
Listen (Rally)
Listen (Committee)

CONTACT: Colleen Greer (717) 787-1463

Sen. Yaw, Rep. Cutler Introduce Legislation to Represent Patients’ Wishes for End-of-Life Care

 

Listen
HARRISBURG – Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23) and State Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Peach Bottom), together with the Pennsylvania Medical Society, today announced legislation to better translate the health care wishes of patients with serious health conditions into medical orders.

“We are holding this press conference today to call attention to legislation, Senate Bill 623 – my bill – and House Bill 1196, sponsored by Representative Bryan Cutler, which is designed to improve the quality of care people receive at the end of life,” said Sen. Yaw.  “This legislation was crafted with the assistance of over 27 interest groups across the state, several of whom are with us today.”

The Pennsylvania Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) Program is a voluntary process designed to improve the quality of care people receive at the end of their lives by turning patient goals and preferences for care into medical orders.

As a POLST form is completed only after a discussion of end-of-life choices between a patient or his or her legal decision maker and physician, the bill would enable patients to pre-plan some aspects of their care.

With the passage of this bill, an individual’s wishes regarding treatment would be applicable in emergency medical services, health care facilities, home care and hospice settings. Advance directives often only identify a surrogate health care decision maker and lack specificity regarding a patient’s preferences should unforeseen medical conditions arise, explained Pennsylvania Medical Society President Charles Cutler, MD, MACP.

POLST forms are currently available in the Commonwealth, but do not permit direct action as a medical order can.

CONTACT:

Rita Zielonis, Chief of Staff

(717) 787-3280

Senator Martin Proposes Plan to Reduce Medicaid Costs, Improve Patient Outcomes

Listen

HARRISBURG – Senator Scott Martin (R-13) introduced legislation today that would help the state take advantage of new technology to reduce Medicaid costs and improve patient care.

Senate Bill 600 would direct the state Department of Human Services to create a new health initiative by issuing a Request For Proposal (RFP) that allows patients and physicians to better utilize new technology and evidence-based medicine.  The plan would make more information available to patients and health care providers to advance treatment options, prevent misdiagnoses and avoid unnecessary and costly emergency room visits and hospital admissions.  Improvements in these areas are vital because according to recent studies, more than 50 percent of healthcare decisions related to services and procedures are made in error and are inappropriate, avoidable and wasteful.

The plan is patterned after a program in Alaska that has helped reduce misdiagnosis rates, improve outpatient care, cut waste, and trim Medicaid costs by over 14 percent.  Experts estimate that a similar program in Pennsylvania could generate between $2 billion and $4 billion in annual savings.

Martin said that generating such a significant savings for taxpayers would help defray the rising cost of Medicaid, which currently accounts for approximately one out of every four dollars in the annual state budget and more than $28 billion overall when federal dollars are factored in.  Pennsylvania is one of the highest spenders per Medicaid enrollee in the country and has seen an upward trend with its Department of Health and Human Services budget over the past few years; increasing by about $500 million annually. 

“Escalating costs are placing an enormous strain on the state and federal budgets, even as healthcare outcomes consistently fail to meet the expectations of patients,” Martin said.  “It makes good sense for lawmakers to see what other states have done to improve care and cut costs so we can create a healthcare system in Pennsylvania that reduces the burden for patients and taxpayers.”

The influx of approximately 700,000 new patients into the Medicaid system is a 20 percent increase, has cost an additional $4.6 billion, and the federal government plans to shift more of that financial burden onto the state in the years to come.

“How we address the exploding cost of health care is one of the most important public policy questions facing lawmakers, because failing to act will only result in greater budgetary challenges and massive tax increases in the future,” Martin said.  “It is far past the time to explore cost-conscious reforms at the state level that actually improve patient care.  This legislation is a huge leap forward toward meeting those goals.”

CONTACT: Terry Trego (717) 787-6535

Op-ed: Medicaid Reform is What the Doctor Ordered

 

Healthcare continues to be a subject of intense public debate, and rightfully so. Escalating costs are placing an enormous strain on family spending plans as well as state and federal budgets, even as healthcare outcomes consistently fail to meet expectations. Although many of the problems pertaining to health care must be addressed at the federal level, it is far past time for Pennsylvania lawmakers to explore cost-conscious reforms at the state level that actually improve patient care.

Medicaid spending remains one of the biggest cost drivers in the state budget. Consider these troubling facts:

  • According to studies, more than 50% of healthcare decisions related to services and procedures are made in error and are inappropriate, unnecessary and wasteful. (2004 Rand, 2008 & 2009 PricewaterhouseCoopers)
  • Roughly one out of every four dollars in the commonwealth’s budget is spent on Medicaid.
  • Total Medicaid spending amounts to over $28 billion annually.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services budget increases by approximately $500 million each year.
  • Pennsylvania is one of the highest spenders per Medicaid enrollee in the country.
  • Medicaid enrollment in Pennsylvania has increased by 20 percent since January 2015, adding approximately 700,000 people to the system.
  • The influx of new patients translates into an additional cost of $4.6 billion to taxpayers, and that burden is slowly but surely being shifted away from the federal government and onto the backs of state taxpayers.

These statistics beg the question — how do we intend to pay for all of these escalating costs? Innovative solutions are absolutely necessary to prevent the need for massive tax increases that Pennsylvania families simply cannot afford to pay.

In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation that would help defray the rising cost of Medicaid while improving patient care. The bill would open the door for patients and physicians to better utilize new technology to improve treatment options, prevent misdiagnoses and avoid unnecessary and costly emergency room visits and hospital admissions. This approach also holds the potential to impact the rising cost of private insurance, since doctors would no longer be stretched so thin by the low reimbursement rates that currently lead many practices to refuse Medicaid patients. The proposal could also assist communities in combating the opioid epidemic by making it harder for individuals to gain access to multiple prescriptions by increasing doctors’ ability to verify what has already been prescribed.

My bill is modeled after a successful program that was implemented in Alaska several years ago. As a result of the program, Alaskans have been able to reduce their misdiagnosis rates, improve outpatient care, cut waste, and trim Medicaid costs by over 14 percent. Experts estimate that a similar program in Pennsylvania could generate between $2 billion and $4 billion in annual savings.

It is encouraging that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have acknowledged that we must restructure state government operations in order to save money and prevent massive tax increases. Thinking outside the box and finding creative solutions that make government more efficient and effective have been a focus throughout my career. I ran for the State Senate on a promise to continue that approach and find commonsense solutions to problems within our great commonwealth. This bill is a solid step in that direction.

Improving patient outcomes at a reduced cost is a win-win for all Pennsylvanians.  Who could be against that?

CONTACT: Terry Trego (717) 787-6535

McIlhinney Bill Would Expand Treatment Options for Terminally Ill Patients

HARRISBURG – Patients who suffer from a terminal illness could soon pursue a broader range of treatment options under legislation introduced today by Senator Chuck McIlhinney (R-10).

McIlhinney’s legislation, Senate Bill 569, would allow eligible patients who have a terminal illness to use investigational drugs, biological products and devices not yet approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The legislation would only permit the use of treatment options that have passed Phase 1 of the FDA review process, but have not been approved for use outside of clinical trials. The treatments would only be available to patients who have a terminal illness or meet other qualifying requirements.

“The FDA’s approval process for experimental drugs and treatments can take several years, but patients who are dealing with a terminal illness do not have the luxury of time to wait,” McIlhinney said. “The FDA serves a critical function in protecting patients from ineffective or unsafe medications, but individuals who have critical health care needs — and few medical alternatives — deserve the right to explore potentially life-saving treatment options that are still mired in clinical trials.”

“The only obstacle to this bill is that many pharmaceutical companies may choose not to participate. If that happens then we have missed a great opportunity. On the other hand, the risk of not passing this bill is that a good drug may languish for 10-14 years in the FDA pipeline and countless Americans will die. Their lives will end without the chance to exercise their Constitutional freedom to make choices regarding their life, liberty, and their own pursuit of happiness, said Matt Bellina – ALS Warrior, Former Navy Pilot.

“The Newtown Athletic Club’s “Have A Heart Foundation” is leading the charge to support the Right to Try Bill both in Pennsylvania and in Washington DC for the sake of the 30 million Americas with a terminal illness who could benefit from the right to try experimental drugs more easily and quickly.  We believe all terminally ill Americans deserve hope to possibly save their own lives without interference from overbearing and antiquated FDA regulations.  The FDA serves as a critical safeguard in our system, but it is time to recognize the importance of modern bio technological advances in drug development by streamlining FDA regulations to recognize the needs of terminally ill patients.   This concept of this bill crosses all party lines as it will touch the lives of hundreds of millions of suffering Americans either directly or indirectly.” Said Jim Worthington, Founder, NAC “Have A Heart Foundation”

The “Right to Try” bill mirrors legislation that has already been approved in 31 states.

CONTACT: Heather Cevasco (215) 489-5000