Legislative wrap-up

Victories for nurse practitioners, diabetic students and cannabis oil proponents.
By Kenny Colston

With the close of the 2014 session, only a handful of important issues to Kentucky’s health community stand to become law this summer. While many other issues wait on the sidelines for their chance in future legislative session.

After weeks of committee hearings, speeches and legislative wrangling, the highlights of this year’s session, from a health standpoint, deal with medicine and who can prescribe it.

Easy Victories

Senate Bill

7, signed into law by Governor Steve Beshear on February 13, gives more freedom to nurse practitioners when it comes to their own medical practices and prescriptions.

Under previous law, the nurse practitioners had to have an agreement with a doctor to prescribe certain medicine. With Senate Bill 7, they will be able to opt out of such agreements after four years and be able to prescribe most medicines on their own.

The bill was a compromise from previous efforts for the issue and sailed through the General Assembly with only one “no” vote in either chamber.

Another easy legislative victory came from allowing diabetic students to give themselves insulin shots in school.

House Bill 98 allows diabetic students to give themselves insulin injections and other medical necessities without the help of a school nurse.

It also allows a trained professional in a school who’s not a nurse to help administer an injection if necessary. The bill sailed through both chambers with little opposition and was signed into law by the governor March 5. Another bill allows a trained caregiver to administer an injection at any point, if given written consent of a diabetic patient.

Cannabis Oil Bill Passes
A third victory, depending on who’s asked, comes from the passage of a bill allowing the use of cannabis oil for medical uses, especially for epilepsy. The Epilepsy Foundation of Kentuckiana pushed for the bill, which won passage in the final legislative days.

The bill allows the oil’s use for those in clinical trials with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or at the University of Kentucky or University of Louisville Hospital. It does not allow full marijuana use for medical reasons, as some lawmakers had pushed for.

Unlikely Passage
But several other bills aren’t likely to get anywhere close to the governor’s desk for his signature. Those include a bill to allow for medical review panels in any cases of neglect or abuse and a statewide smoking ban.

Supporters of both issues claim to fight another day in the 2015 session, but neither issue has been able to climb its initial roadblocks.

Other new laws include a lot of technical changes to medical professions, including countersigning notes of physician assistants, continuing education and more.

And while monitored, the expansion of Medicaid and managed care organizations didn’t see any significant legislation passed this session either.

Funding Uncertain

Funding for the Affordable Care Act and the kynect exchanges are also up in the air, with both the governor and the state House including funding in their budgets, while the Senate stripped such funding out.

At press time, lawmakers were still arguing over a final budget, leaving the funding up in the air.