IMS Advocate: 2021 Session - Week Fourteen

Saturday, April 17, 2021 7:30 AM | Sydney Maras (Administrator)

With just two weeks remaining until targeted adjournment on April 30, legislators continue to move steadily through the remaining policy measures for consideration and to advance initial budget bills, positioning them to move quickly once a budget deal is reached. This week saw continued discussions on several issues of interest to medicine, including the following:

Tort Reform

We continue to work closely with leadership and our legislative champion to build support for HF 592 and SF 557 – the companion bills to enact a $1 million hard cap on noneconomic damages. The coalition of provider, payer, and business groups that IMS is leading on this issue has continued targeted in-building and in-district outreach to the handful of holdout votes we need to move in order to secure final passage of the legislation.

With the targeted end of session now just a few weeks away, this week IMS launched a new Action Alert to remind the full chambers that this issue must be resolved before they adjourn for the year. This fresh round of local grassroots contacts has reminded many rank and file members that passage of a hard cap remains a priority for their local physicians and has helped to spur new internal conversations in both chambers about what more can be done to move this issue forward.

Thank you all who took new action to contact their local legislators this week. If you have not reached out to your legislators in recent days, please do so immediately.

Physician Workforce

Last week, we told you about the House Education Budget bill, which includes $300,000 in new funding for the Rural Physician Loan Repayment Program – the program that offers up to $200,000 in loan repayment in exchange for a physician agreeing to practice in a qualifying community. On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved SSB 1263 – their version of the FY 22 Education Budget. The Senate bill also proposes to increase funding for the loan repayment program, however, they seek to do so at a more modest $100,000 increase over the current fiscal year. The Senate also proposed a $100,000 increase in funding for the companion rural loan repayment program open to ARNPs, PAs, and RNs. This funding increase was not included in the House Education budget proposal.

With budget bills now out of committee in both chambers, the legislative vehicles are positioned to move quickly once the two chambers reach consensus on final spending levels. As we noted last week, Iowa College Student Aid Commission, which administers the Rural Physician Loan Repayment Program has indicated that it must allocate the full $200,000 for a medical student’s loan repayment in the year the student is enrolled in the program. As such, any funding increase less than this amount will not result in an increase in program slots this coming year. IMS will continue to work with the members of Team Doctor to push for a minimum funding increase of $200,000 to ensure an additional medical student is able to enroll in the program in FY 2022.

Residency Liability Protections

On Tuesday, the House debated HF 852, a bill we told you about last week that creates a new grant program to help community-based residency programs afford the soaring costs of medical liability insurance. The bill expands the existing medical residency grant program through the Iowa Department of Public Health to allow community-based residency programs may apply to the state for a dollar-for-dollar match to cover a portion of the costs for medical liability coverage for their program.

In recent years, a handful of programs have seen dramatic increases in their liability coverage costs, with some being dropped by their long-time carriers and facing extreme difficulties in finding a carrier willing to even issue a quote for coverage. This has resulted in dramatic cost increases and restructuring of multiple community-based programs. HF 852, which overwhelmingly passed the House and now moves to the Senate for consideration, is a short-term solution to the problem as we work to address the underlying problem of Iowa’s worsening medical liability climate. IMS continued discussion this week with legislators about the need for including sufficient funding for this new grant program as part of the forthcoming Health and Human Services Budget.

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