IMS Advocate: 2021 Session - Week Six

Saturday, February 20, 2021 7:30 AM | Sydney Maras (Administrator)

It was an extremely busy week at the capitol as IMS’s top legislative priority – tort reform – was introduced and began moving through the House. Hundreds of physician, resident, and medical student advocates from across the state participated in Physician Week on the Hill and made their voice heard in the tort reform fight. We also saw our first IMS legislative priority make its way to the Governor’s desk for signature.

Tort Reform

After months of behind-the-scenes and grassroots activity, our tort reform efforts entered a new chapter this week. On Monday, the House introduced HF 517, which will enact a $1 million hard cap on noneconomic damages. On Tuesday, a House subcommittee met to consider the legislation. IMS Board members Jessica Zuzga-Reed, DO, and Christi Taylor, MD, were joined by physician and administrative leaders from multiple systems, facilities, and clinics speaking in support of the bill that passed the subcommittee on a party-line 2-1 vote. On Thursday, the House Human Resources Committee took up and passed HF 517 also on a party-line vote. The bill now moves to the full House for consideration.

It is absolutely imperative that House members are hearing from their local physicians about the need for this legislation. If you haven’t already, please take a minute to contact your State Representative via the IMS Action Center to add your voice to the tort reform fight.

Physician Workforce

On Tuesday, the House took up and overwhelmingly passed SF 129 – a joint workforce priority of IMS and the Iowa Psychiatric Society to do the following:

  • Expand the Rural Physician Loan Repayment program to include OB/GYNs.
  • Establish true geographic standards for rural communities to qualify under the program.
  • Allow psychiatrists who practice in federally-designated mental health shortage areas to also qualify for the program.
  • Allows new physicians to enter into part-time practice arrangements in exchange for a longer service commitment and still qualify for the maximum $200,000 in loan repayment under the program.

Tuesday’s House vote marked final passage for this workforce priority, which is now on its way to the governor’s desk for signature.

Anti-Vaccine Efforts

We saw further efforts to erode Iowa’s strong vaccine policies this week with a lengthy Senate subcommittee hearing on SF 193 – the anti-vaccine omnibus bill – on Tuesday afternoon. This expansive legislation would do the following:

  • Prohibit Employer Vaccine Mandates
  • Prohibit Healthcare Employee Vaccine Mandates
  • Limit Clinics’ Ability to Restrict Unvaccinated Patients
  • Prohibit Licensing Boards from Imposing Licensee Vaccine Mandates
  • Prohibit Insurers from Considering Vaccine Status for Patient Coverage or Provider Credentialing Determinations,
  • Establish a Personal Belief Vaccine Exemption
  • Prohibit Emergency Public Health Disaster Declarations from Mandating COVID-19 Vaccination
  • Establish Explicit Civil Rights Protections for Unvaccinated Iowans
  • Prohibit Vaccination Status Linking to State-Issues IDs
  • Require Written Consent for Reporting Vaccinations to IRIS

Tuesday’s subcommittee hearing, which stretched to nearly two hours, covered a host of topics from debunked theories about purported links to autism and SIDs, to the safety concerns about the new COVID-19 vaccines. Anti-vaccine advocates shared stories of difficulty finding care for their unvaccinated children and employment challenges after they themselves refused to get vaccinated and attempted to continue to work in healthcare settings.

IMS joined several provider, public health, and business advocates in testifying against the legislation, noting the numerous concerning implications of advancing this measure. Subcommittee members were split on the proposal with the bill ultimately advancing to full committee on a vote of 2-1.


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