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Advocacy Update 2016

Three measures passed by the West Virginia General Assembly during its regular session were supported by the WVACC and constitute a very successful Chapter state advocacy program for 2016. Summaries of the three bills which await the Governor’s signature follow.  The General Assembly must return to pass a budget prior to June 30. A major issue in budget negotiations will be a cigarette tax increase. The Governor has asked for a 45 cents hike which health care organizations consider inadequate.  Stay tuned for an action update on the cigarette tax issue.

HB 4040  Regulating step therapy protocols in health benefit plans Passage of this bill constitutes a major victory for the medical community. It was strongly supported by the West Virginia State Medical Association (WVSMA) and a number of medical organizations including WVACC. HB 4040 permits regulation of insurance created step therapy protocols in which insurance carriers rather than physicians design drug programs patients must follow. The bill:  (1) ensures that step therapy programs are based on clinical guidelines; (2) ensures that the exceptions process for step therapy is transparent and accessible to patients and health care providers; and (3) establishes a basic framework for when it is medically appropriate to exempt patients from step therapy. HB 4040 passed the House and Senate unanimously, a tribute to the hard work and persistence of the West Virginia medical community. Step therapy regulation measures are a very heavy lift indeed. In 2015 only California succeeded. So far this year only Indiana has enacted step therapy regulation legislation Approval  of HB 4040 will enable West Virginia to join a handful of states that have enacted this important patient first legislation. Completed legislation, signed by the Governor on March 29, 2016.

HB 4463  Authorizes the practice of telemedicine This legislation permits, defines and establishes licensing requirements for physicians and podiatrists to utilize telemedicine technologies. The bill also requires a physical encounter and original prescriptions for Schedule II medications. It clarifies that the practice of medicine takes place where the patient is located. The physician is required to inform the patient of his or her physical location and to provide contact information. WVSMA strongly supported the bill. Completed legislation, signed by the Governor on March 24, 2016.

HB 4365  Creates simplified and expedited CON process  This bill makes a few reforms in the certificate of need (CON) process but retains a great deal of power for the West Virginia Health Care Authority (WVHCA)..West Virginia will continue to have one of the most stringent CON processes in the nation. Cath labs and imaging equipment used to perform echocardiography, nuclear studies, and magnetic resonance imaging remain subject to the CON process. Of potential importance to cardiologists HB 4365 provides an exemption process for in-office computed tomography (CT) imaging equipment. Completed legislation, signed by the Governor on March 25, 2016.