As of Friday, we’re now one month away from the first funnel deadline on March 5 – the date by which most policy bills must have passed a committee in their chamber of origin in order to remain viable for consideration this session. Over the next month, we’ll continue to see extensive committee and subcommittee work ahead of this deadline. This week that included:
In recent years, we have seen a concerning trend at the capitol with the anti-vaccine community becoming much better coordinated under the leadership of an organization known as Informed Choice Iowa (ICI) . With the help of a handful of vocal anti-vaccine legislators, these advocates successful pushed for the introduction of numerous anti-vaccine bills. Despite the ongoing pandemic and the central role that vaccines are going to play in helping end it, this trend has continued this session and taken on an additional focus as anti-vaccine advocates worry they may be required by their employer, their child’s school, or other entities to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. So far this session, we’ve seen the following anti-vaccine bills introduced:
- HF 217 – Expanding Vaccine Exemptions During Public Health Emergencies
- HF 237 – Mandating Student Education on Vaccine Complications
- HF 247 – Restricting Pediatric Immunization School Admission Criteria
- SF 125 – Requiring Infant Vaccination Information on Medical Examiner Investigation Forms
- HF 329 – Expanding Vaccine Exemptions
- SF 193; HF 330 – Prohibiting Employer Vaccine Mandates, Prohibiting Healthcare Employee Vaccine Mandates, Limiting Clinics’ Ability to Restrict Unvaccinated Patients, Prohibiting Licensing Boards from Imposing Licensee Vaccine Mandates, Prohibiting Insurers from Considering Vaccine Status for Patient Coverage or Provider Credentialing Determinations, Establishing a Personal Belief Vaccine Exemption, Prohibiting Emergency Public Health Disaster Declarations from Mandating COVID-19 Vaccination, Establishing Explicit Civil Rights Protections for Unvaccinated Iowans, Prohibiting Vaccination Status Linking to State-Issues IDs, & Requiring Written Consent for Reporting Vaccinations to IRIS.
While many of these bills are unlikely to even see a subcommittee hearing this session, the growing number and complexity of the bills is cause for concern. Informed Choice Iowa has begun engaging on additional bills outside of the traditional proposals to simply expand vaccine mandate exemptions and are pursuing less-obvious avenues of increasing vaccine hesitancy in the state.
This week, a Senate subcommittee considered SF 125 to require a listing of infant vaccination history on medical examiner investigation forms for individuals under the age of three. IMS joined public health officials, provider groups, health insurers, and a host of other opposing the bill. Several ICI members – including some who cited their personal education as healthcare personnel – spoke in support of the bill, which passed out of the subcommittee with support from two of the three members. The bill now moves to the full Senate Human Resources Committee where similar legislation passed last session. IMS will continue to work with the Iowa Immunizes Coalition and other vaccine advocates to halt this and any other anti-vaccine legislation that may gain momentum this session.
Continuing Medical Education
Last spring, as the state was imposing the first of a growing list of policy flexibilities to confront the COVID-19 pandemic, IMS worked with the Governor’s Office to secure a waiver on continuing education requirements for physicians and other health professions, as well as an extension of license renewal dates, to allow frontline providers to focus on pandemic response efforts. These waivers have subsequently been extended with each Public Health Disaster Emergency Proclamation. Physicians whose licensed expired in 2020 now have until June 30, 2021, to meet their CME requirements and renew their medical license. Physicians whose licenses expired in 2021 currently have until the expiration of the Public Health Disaster Emergency Proclamations to do so.
As the state begins to plan for the end of the pandemic, legislators are looking at ways to ease the winddown of these policy flexibilities, without imposing a substantial immediate burden on those who have been given flexibilities under the proclamations. Last week, a House subcommittee took up and passed HF 133, which provides six months after the expiration of the Public Health Disaster Emergency Proclamations to complete continuing education requirements imposed by professional licensing boards. This week, a Senate subcommittee considered and passed SF 163, which requires professional licensing boards to extend continuing education deadlines for individual licensees who experience a medical or financial hardship. Both bills now move to full committee in their respective chambers with subcommittee members indicating that they may bring forward amendments to further expand the flexibilities for licensees.
On Wednesday, a Senate subcommittee met to consider SSB 1046, which would create a new system for regulating professional licensure, registration, and certification in the State of Iowa. Highlights of the bill, which would impact all professional licenses not just those in healthcare, include:
SSB 1046 would also impose these same requirements for non-healthcare professions regulated by the state. Variations of this proposal have been proposed in recent sessions, with some seeking to carve out the four primary health licensure boards – medicine, pharmacy, nursing, and dentistry – in recognition that the state would never eliminate these professional licenses and the reports required under the legislation would likely be time and resource intensive to prepare. This year’s bill does not contain this same carve out. The subcommittee voted 2-1 to move the bill forward to the full Senate State Government Committee, but indicated that further amendments to the legislation are likely. The bill’s future is uncertain.
- Reporting requirements for unregulated health professions seeking state regulations, with a justification for the need for regulation and preference given to the least restrictive form of regulations that will still protect public safety.
- Reporting requirements for regulated health professions seeking to expand their scope of practice or alter their state regulations, with a justification of the need for such changes.
- Legislative proposals to impose new continuing education mandates must be accompanied by a report demonstrating the effectiveness of the education.
- Modifying the legislative State Government Efficiency Review Committee to include directive to evaluate all existing professional regulatory boards, as well as the previously mentioned reports.
- Each year from 2022 to 2027, the committee is required to review one-fifth of all regulatory boards to determine need, operations, and effectiveness, based upon reports submitted by the individual boards. Annually in December, the committee would submit a report on its findings and recommendations of modifications to or eliminations or existing boards.