Copy

April 17, 2013

LEGISLATIVE NOTES
Legislative Notes for ASHNHA members; compiled from hearings, reports, news accounts and good old fashioned face to face discussion in the Capital City

 The Legislature Adjourned on Day 90 of 90


The Alaska Legislature adjourned on Sunday night at 11:35 pm on Day 90 of a 90 day session. The Republican-led House, Senate and Governor achieved many of the goals they identified going into the session in January.  The primary focus of this session was oil & gas taxes and permit streamlining and reform.  As we have previously reported, there were very few bills of interest to ASHNHA this session. We will report on the bills we have tracked in a separate section of the newsletter.
 
Session Highlights:
  • Operating Budget: With the spring forecast for state revenue significantly down from last fall, the legislature showed restraint with the operating budget. They reduced the Governor’s requested amount of general funds by $50 million, roughly equal to last year’s authorization. ($5.789 billion GF) Overall spending in the operating budget was $9.856 billion, including general, federal and other state funds.
  • Capital Budget: Again, demonstrating restraint from previous years, the legislature added only $280 million to the Governor’s Capital Budget even though he had allotted $500 million for them to spend when his projected budget was released in December. Notable appropriations include $95 million for the Susitna Hydro Project, $30 million for the Engineering Buildings at UAA and UAF, $38 million for deferred maintenance for the Project 80’s in Anchorage, $35 million for a residential facility at the Alaska Native Medical Center and $15 million for a new hospital in Ketchikan.  Overall capital spending authorized was $2.288 billion, of which $1.23 billion was general funds, $929 million was federal funds and $120 million were other state funds (such as certificates of participation).
  • Oil and Gas Tax Reform: The legislature passed Senate Bill 21, the Governor’s bill to reduce oil and gas tax levels in Alaska. The Senate narrowly passed the measure 12-8 and the House passed it on the second to last night of session, 24-15.
  • Natural Gas Pipeline: House Bill 4, sponsored by Speaker of the House, Mike Chennault and Representative Mike Hawker, passed both bodies.  The measure creates a new quasi-independent public entity to advance a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to Cook Inlet.
  • Fairbanks Natural Gas: The legislature passed SB 23, the Governor’s initiative to bring natural gas to Fairbanks. The measure, supported by $300 million of funding and loans, begins the process by trucking gas from the North Slope to Fairbanks and helps develop a distribution network in the community. The system is expected to be operational by 2016.

KAREN PERDUE
President / CEO
IN SESSION
426 Main Street
Juneau, AK 99801
907.586.1790
----
1049 W 5th Ave, Ste 100
Anchorage, AK 99501
907.646.1444

EMAIL
karen@ashnha.com

Alaska Medicare Clinic Receives $800,000


The Alaska Medicare Clinic - an entity supported by Alaska Physicians and Surgeons, ASHNHA, the State Medical Association, Alaska Regional, and Providence Health and Services– received an appropriation of $800,000 in the operating budget—so the support will be ongoing.  This funding is to be used to cover the operating shortfalls between what Medicare pays for services and the cost of running the clinic.  In addition to the operating money, $200,000 was appropriated to the clinic in the capital budget.

Health Care Related Projects Funded in this Year's Capital Budget




We thank Yuri Morgan and Linda Anderson of Anderson Group for providing the above table.

Bills that Passed the Legislature


Senate Bill 87 – Requiring screening of newborns for congenital heart defects
 
SB 87 mandates a health care provider licensed in the state, who attends the birth, shall ensure that, before discharge from the facility, and as close to 24 hours after birth as is feasible, screening for congenital heart defects through pulse oximetry equipment and methods appropriate for use on a newborn are performed. Includes births in hospitals, birthing centers and home births. Parents may opt out of the testing. The bill mandates DHSS establish procedures for hospitals to submit reports of newborn screening and test results and for the Department to collect and analyze data that have been reported.
 
This legislation was introduced 19 days before the end of session and passed both the Senate and the House unanimously.  Along the way it picked up 31 co-sponsors.
 
Senate Bill 88 - Authorizing the state bond committee to issue certificates of participation to finance the construction and equipping of residential housing to serve the Anchorage campus of the ANMC; authorizes the Department of Administration to enter into a lease-purchase agreement for the benefit of the ANTHC.
 
SB 88 provides $35 million plus investment income to ANTHC for design, construct, operate, and maintain a residential housing facility adjacent to ANMC.  The Department of Health and Social Services testified that construction and use of this facility will save the Department several million dollars each year. Patient housing is critical to ensuring meaningful access to care at ANMC for pregnant moms, for those who are receiving cancer treatment, and for other people who must receive care far from their home communities.

Bills to Watch Next Session


House Bill 6 – Guidelines for auditing pharmacy records
 
HB 6 establishes standards for an audit of pharmacy records carried out by an insurer, a managed care company, a hospital or medical service corporation, a third-party payor, a pharmacy benefits manager, or an entity that represents an insurer, a managed care company, a hospital or medical service corporation, a third-party payor, or a pharmacy benefits manager.
 
This bill did not see any movement during the session.  
 
House Bill 7 – Practice of Naturopathy
 
HB 7 restricts the practice of naturopathy by not allowing naturopaths to prescribe drugs.
 
This bill did not see any movement during the session. Representative Pete Higgins, Chair of the House HESS Committee indicated an interest in working in this area in the future.
 
House Bill 44 – Advance Healthcare Directives Registry
 
HB 44 makes changes to the advance directory law and states a health care facility or hospital is not subject to civil or criminal liability for acting in reliance on an advance health care directive obtained from the registry or not checking the directive to determine if a patient of the facility has filed an advance health care directive in the registry.
 
This bill did not see any movement during the session.
 
House Bill 53 – Establishing a consultation requirement for opiates prescription under certain circumstances.
 
HB 53 addresses the issues of opiate prescription drugs head on by establishing a process for the patient and medical professional to work with a pain relief specialist on the actual drug needs. Medical Doctors, Dentists, Physician Assistants, and Nurse Practitioners will work together with pain specialists and patients to determine if the patient needs to increase the dosage above 120 milligrams the consultation process kicks in.
 
This bill had a few hearings but did not move from committee.
 
House Bill 141 – Setting the fees for medical treatment or services performed outside Alaska under Workers Compensation and establishing a time limit for submitting bill for treatment.
 
HB 141 establishes rates for treatment under Workers Compensation outside of Alaska. These rates may not be more than what would have been paid in in that state under their workers’ compensation statutes.  Also sets a time frame of 180 days for a provider to submit a bill and a time frame of 60 days if the provider is going to file an appeal of the payment amount.
 
HB 141 did not move from committee.
 
House Bill 173 – Defining ‘medically necessary abortion’ for the purposes of making payment under that state Medicaid program.
 
HB 173 is a companion to Senate Bill 49 by Senator Coghill.  This legislation will bring clarity to the term “medically necessary abortion” for the purposes of making payments under Medicaid.  Stemming from a 2001 Alaska Supreme Court case it was determined the state must pay for “medically necessary abortions” for participants in the Medicaid program.  Currently, this term has acquired a constitutional component of unknown scope.  HB 173 will provide a neutral definition for a “medically necessary” abortion.
 
See comments under SB 49.
 
House Joint Resolution 14 – Requesting the United States Congress and the Governor to take action necessary to delay implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
 
HJR 14 calls on the US Congress to pass legislation to delay the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  It states the Alaska Legislature will not support the implementation of the PPACA until it can be shown that the Act does not significantly raise business costs and does not create considerable economic uncertainty. Asks the Governor to take actions necessary to delay the implementation of the Act in the state to protect Alaskans and the state’s economy from the onerous taxes and regulations contained in the law.
 
The resolution did not pass;  it passed through the House and onto the Senate floor. It was amended in Senate HSS to remove the paragraphs related to the Medicaid expansion.  Before a vote was taken the resolution was returned to the Senate Rules Committee and removed from the Senate Calendar.
 
Senate Bill 8 - Guidelines for auditing pharmacy records
 
SB 8 is a companion bill to HB 6 and establishes standards for an audit of pharmacy records carried out by an insurer, a managed care company, a hospital or medical service corporation, a third-party payor, a pharmacy benefits manager, or an entity that represents an insurer, a managed care company, a hospital or medical service corporation, a third-party payor, or a pharmacy benefits manager.
 
This bill had several hearings in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee but did not see any movement during the session.  
 
Senate Bill 30 – Teacher and Public Employees Retirement Plan
 
Relating to a new defined benefit tiers in the public employees’ retirement system and the teachers’ retirement system.  Provides certain employees an opportunity to choose between the defined benefit and defined contribution plans of the public employees’ retirement system and the teachers’ retirement system.
 
This bill did not see any movement this session.
 
Senate Bill 49 - Defining ‘medically necessary abortion’ for the purposes of making payment under that state Medicaid program
 
SB 49 is the companion to House Bill 173.  This legislation will bring clarity to the term “medically necessary abortion” for the purposes of making payments under Medicaid.  Stemming from a 2001 Alaska Supreme Court case it was determined the state must pay for “medically necessary abortions” for participants in the Medicaid program.  Currently, this term has acquired a constitutional component of unknown scope.  HB 173 will provide a neutral definition for a “medically necessary” abortion.
 
Senate Bill 49 passed the Senate but was amended on the Senate floor to include the addition of  family planning services, health screening examinations, and related services under Medicaid. The amendment was championed by Senator’s Lesil McGuire, Anna Faircloth and Berta Gardner.  This amendment did not sit well with the supporters of the legislation and the bill was not heard in the House. 
 
Senate Bill 90 – Relating to group insurance and self-insurance coverage for school district employees.
 
SB 90 would allow school districts to come under the State of Alaska Employee Health plan.  If passed, this would bring in approximately another 47,000 covered people into the State plan.
 
There was plenty of opposition to this legislation and many impacts of the legislation remain unknown.  This legislation was held in the Senate Finance Committee and will be debated next session.

Legislative Notes Come to a Close


This is the last issue of our weekly Legislative Notes. We will resume our periodic President’s report after we take a little breather. Response to this format has been very positive so we will use this format for future publications. 
 
A hearty thanks to the ASHNHA crew for making this publication possible—most notably Geoff Bullock, Debbie Lowenthal and Connie Kanen.  Thanks also to ASHNHA’s lobbying team Pat Carter and Kent Dawson. And finally to the other health facility lobbyists who support ASHNHA in all we do. 

Save the Date


We’re headed to Nome for the ASHNHA Annual Meeting. ASHNHA has reserved a block of rooms at the Aurora Inn and Suites. To reserve your room, please email Barb at director@nomechamber.com with your name, phone #, check in and check out dates. Event registration, agenda highlights and recommended airline flights coming soon! We hope to see you in Nome.


You have received this newsletter because you are a friend, a registered ASHNHA customer or because you have recently requested information about our activities or products. Unsubscribe from this newsletter.

ASHNHA has stored your email address and other data for internal purposes only. We will not lend or sell our contacts' data to third parties.

©2013 Alaska State Hospital & Nursing Home Association. All rights reserved