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Committees Tackle Health Bills, House Tackles the Budget

Committees Tackle Health Bills, House Tackles the Budget

With less than a month remaining in the 2015 legislative session, a few recently introduced bills deal with health, such as expanding the capability of dental hygienists and limiting out-of-network charges for consumers. Only 28 days are left until legislators adjourn, and much remains to be settled.

Last week saw eight bills we’re tracking pass out of committees:

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee moved Senate Bill 228, which would update Medicaid provider rates by requiring every rate to be reviewed once every five years, to the Senate Appropriations Committee on a 5-0 vote.

The House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee gave a unanimous thumbs-up to Senate Bill 197, which would reduce the training burden on advanced practice nurses for writing prescriptions. The bill has moved quickly and is on to the full House next, where it is two votes away from final passage. 

The committee also passed House Bill 1283 and House Bill 1309. HB 1283, aiming to create a reference library for marijuana testing, was approved by a 12-1 margin and is heading to House Appropriations. HB 1309 joins this session’s list of scope-of-practice bills. It seeks to allow qualified dental hygienists to perform certain procedures under remote supervision (sometimes called “teledentistry”) and to require Medicaid and the Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) public insurance programs to reimburse providers for those services. The bill passed the committee 13-0 and will next be heard in House Finance.

The House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee sent two bills forward. House Bill 1233, which would create a Respite Care Task Force, is going to Appropriations following an 11-2 vote. House Bill 1298, a re-worked bill that aims to warn pregnant women of the risks of marijuana use, passed the committee 10-3 and then passed its second and third reading in the House. It will now move to the Senate.

Two other committees sent health bills to the House floor for final votes. The House Appropriations Committee approved the controversial House Bill 1194, which would dedicate $5 million in funding for long-acting reversible contraception for low-income women, on an 8-5 vote. Rep. Bob Rankin (R), a member of the Joint Budget Committee who supports the LARC funding, joined the committee’s seven Democrats in voting to pass the bill. Its scheduled reading on the House floor has been delayed until April 10. The House Committee on Business Affairs and Labor voted 12-0 to pass Senate Bill 137, which would add for-profit companies to the list of providers of the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), a program that offers medical and social services.

A handful of bills were recently signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper. They include Senate Bill 19 (sanctioning a full audit of the state’s health insurance marketplace), Senate Bill 53 (making emergency overdose drugs more widely available), Senate Bill 71 (allowing pharmacists to substitute biosimilar medications) and Senate Bill 116 (reducing the risk to police officers of inadvertent needle-sticks during searches by allowing suspects to declare drug paraphernalia without a penalty).

New bills that we’re watching, in addition to HB 1309, include Senate Bill 256 and Senate Bill 259. SB 256 aims to increase both the number of meetings of the legislature’s health insurance exchange review committee and the number of bills the committee introduce. It has been assigned to Senate Health and Human Services, where it is guaranteed to pass because three of its Senate sponsors are also HHS committee members. 

SB 259 deals with limiting out-of-network charges to consumers and is sponsored by Sen. Irene Aguilar (D) and Rep. Susan Lontine (D). Aguilar has talked about the issue of patients visiting a clinic in their insurance network but being seen, knowingly or unknowingly, by an out-of-network provider, who sticks them with a higher charge. The bill aims to change that. It will be discussed in the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee.

Meanwhile, most attention this week remains fixed on the state budget, as the Long Bill (our state’s term for the budget bill) moved from the Senate to the House. The 65 representatives are debating the bill, considering amendments, and hoping to find enough common ground to move it to the governor by the end of next week.