Hepatitis C Testing

S1279, a bill requiring hospitals and health care professionals not employed by nursing homes or other long-term care facilities to offer hepatitis C testing to individuals born between 1945 and 1965, was passed overwhelmingly by the Senate on March 14, 2016, by a vote of 36-2. The bill further requires nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, as well as the health care professionals employed thereby, to offer to arrange for the provision of hepatitis C testing to individuals born between 1945 and 1965, either by setting up a screening test appointment with an appropriate health care professional or general hospital, or by arranging for a mobile laboratory or other laboratory site to provide the screening test. The bill was received by the Assembly, where it will be considered by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.

Substance Abuse Treatment

S294, a bill requiring the health care professional or first responder who administers an opioid antidote to a person experiencing a drug overdose to provide that person with information concerning substance abuse treatment programs and resources, was reported favorably from the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee on March 7, 2016. If the person is admitted to a health care facility or receives treatment in the emergency department of a health care facility, the bill would obligate the health care professional with primary responsibility for the person’s care to provide the information at any time after treatment for the drug overdose is complete but prior to the person’s discharge from the facility. This health care professional also would be required to document the provision of the information in the person’s medical record and would be permitted to develop a substance abuse treatment plan for the person. The bill will proceed to the full Senate for a vote.

Alzheimer’s Notation in Medical Records

S377, a bill requiring the inclusion of Alzheimer’s-related diagnoses in medical records at the initiation of care, was reported favorably from the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee on March 7, 2016. The bill obligates hospitals to require health care professionals, at the time of taking a medical history or performing a physical examination of a patient admitted to an emergency room or the hospital, to include a notation in the patient’s medical record indicating, if applicable, that the patient has Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. The bill is intended to facilitate better care for patients and to help prevent elopement from hospitals. The bill will proceed to the full Senate for a vote.

Tiered Health Insurance Networks Task Force

A888, a bill establishing the New Jersey Task Force on Tiered Health Insurance Networks, was passed by the Assembly on April 7, 2016, by a unanimous vote of 73-0. According to a statement published by the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Reform and Federal Relations Committee, “[t]he purpose of the task force is to study the recent trend toward tiered health insurance networks; identify the impact of tiered health insurance networks on consumers, hospitals, providers and the health care delivery system; and make recommendations for legislation and strategies to create more effective and efficient policies regarding tiered health insurance networks in the state and to ensure that tiered networks operate in the public interest.” Among other responsibilities, the task force would assess the effects of tiered networks on hospitals, particularly “safety net” hospitals; examine how the process of creating tiered provider networks can be made more transparent, fair and equitable; evaluate the role of the Department of Health in assessing the effect tiered networks might have on the financial security of hospitals, particularly safety net hospitals; and confirm that network adequacy regulations are sufficient to ensure that tiered networks do not discriminate against community providers and hospitals that provide treatment to underserved or high-risk populations. The bill will proceed to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain fate. Senate President Stephen Sweeney has voiced strong support for tiered plans, vowing to oppose any bill that “threatens consumer choice.”