Our last update discussed the significant bills that we passed through March 19th regarding Education. I would like to now give you an update on legislation that we have passed involving Health. One of our main concerns is ensuring the health and welfare of Tennesseans and I believe the passing of this legislation is a step in the right direction. My office is always open to assist you with whatever needs you have, especially during this time. I am committed to serving District 28 and am available any time to provide assistance.
Legislation helps rural health clinics recruit doctors — The General Assembly enacted legislation allowing rural health clinics to employ a physician, a move that will help many Tennessee counties. Current law prevents corporations from employing doctors due to a ban on the corporate practice of medicine with certain exceptions for hospitals, nursing homes, and federally qualified health centers. The measure was passed to aid efforts to recruit doctors to work in Tennessee’s rural health clinics and in economically distressed communities.
New law encourages lower health care costs through Association Health Plans – Legislation which aims to lower premiums and overall health care costs for small businesses through Association Health Plans (AHP) was approved this year. The new law aligns Tennessee’s AHP laws with new federal rules put into place by President Trump’s administration to help small businesses purchase affordable, high quality health insurance as a result of increased flexibility.
AHPs allow small businesses and entrepreneurs to band together with other businesses to purchase insurance with the bargaining power of a big company. The plans are similar to comprehensive large group or self-insured insurance policies offered by most large employers, covering the same types of treatments and procedures.
Since 2003, average family premiums for Tennessee small employers have increased over 75 percent, while at the same time deductibles have spiked. As a result, almost 30,000 fewer workers at small businesses have private insurance coverage due to the decreased affordability.
New law encourages alternative pain treatments to opioids — Legislation encouraging the use of more alternative pain treatments rather than opioids was approved during the 2020 session. The new law amends the state’s opioid reform legislation to include medical devices like pain pumps, spinal cord stimulators, occupational therapy and non-opioid medicinal drugs as non-opioid based alternative therapies for chronic pain. A 2019 law called for alternative pain treatment for chiropractic care, physical therapy, acupuncture, and other treatments to be encouraged for pain relief before opioids are dispensed. Both measures are part of an ongoing effort in Tennessee to provide alternative pathways to treat pain in order to curb opioid addiction, which has claimed the lives of thousands of Tennesseans.
New law ensures 911 operators are trained for CPR – Legislation passed the General Assembly this year to ensure 911 operators across the state are prepared to provide CPR instructions to a caller in an emergency situation. Currently, not all counties allow 911 operators to run callers through CPR instructions. The new law ensures all 911 operators in the state will provide telecommunicator cardiopulmonary resuscitation (T-CPR), as well as receive proper training to administer it. The legislation also includes liability protection for those providing this service.
Senate approves increase in ambulance reimbursement rates – In addition, legislation that I co-sponsored passed this year increasing the percentage that public and private ambulance services are reimbursed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) for performing Medicaid transports. On average, ambulance services are reimbursed at 50 percent of the Medicare rate. The new law increases that percentage to 67.5 percent. The state will provide $7 million to cover the increased reimbursement from federal dollars. Ambulance providers will then draw down approximately $21 million, for a total of $28 million going to public and private providers across the state so that lifesaving care can be more adequately compensated.
Legislation gives health boards more tools to protect patients – The General Assembly enacted legislation giving health-related boards more tools to take swift action to limit the authority of health care providers who have been disciplined in other states. The measure allows all health-related boards to restrict licensure of potentially dangerous practitioners to protect patients when there is a contested hearing. It also provides health boards with new options beyond only suspension, which can be helpful for rural communities that have a limited amount of physicians.