Well, it seems we’ve reached the end of our long and winding road. The 112th General Assembly has adjourned until January 11th, 2022, and I’m sure you all are gently weeping. But do not fret, dear reader, we’ve accomplished a lot this session, and we still have lots more on deck to come together and accomplish in the second year of the 112th. There are tons of kudos to go around – shout out to Carol and the policy team for their leadership, to the lobbying team, who took up our mantle eight days a week, to the TDC family for setting our priorities and supporting our mission, and to the GRASSROOTS – well, we only get by with a little help from our friends. So here comes the sun, soak it in, and I’ve got a feeling that when January rolls around and the time comes for heavy lifting, we’ll work together to carry that weight. From me to you, dear reader, it’s been a pleasure. Until next time, all my love(ing).
TDC Priority Bill Update
- IEP Services Reimbursement – this bill would require TennCare to reimburse school districts for money spent on services prescribed in a TennCare-eligible student’s IEP
- This is an interesting bill – it achieves a long-time goal of school districts and advocates because it makes it more likely that schools can provide adequate and necessary services, but it’s also super-duper expensive.
- We’ll find out its fate next year – the bill was deferred to the first calendar of the Senate Finance, Ways and Means committee, and taken off notice in the House
- 340B Non-Discrimination – this bill forbids health insurance companies from reimbursing 340B entities (like pharmacies) at different rates than other healthcare entities.
- This bill was re-referred to the Senate Calendar committee, to be heard and assigned next January
- We like this bill, so we’re a little disappointed in the lack of (positive) resolution, but we’ll watch it next year
- Some other legislation, like Sen. Reeves and Rep. Helton’s PBM Reform bill, cover some of the same ground here
- Legislation aimed at curbing lower reimbursement rates for 340B entities have popped up (and successfully passed) all over the country, particularly in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling upholding states’ rights to regulate pharmacy benefit managers and their contracts
TDC Priority Bill Musings
There will be a more in-depth roundup coming shortly, complete with insightful and witty commentary by yours truly. Until then, here are some general impressions about just a few of the things we’ve been working on during the session:
- Passage of the ID Death Penalty bill was the BIG one, and I mean HUGE one.
- The DSP Wage Increase bill passed, but the raise was cut in half from $15/hr to $12.50/hr – we’ll see if that’s enough to make a dent in the DSP crisis.
- Rep. Harris’ first bill, the Disability Child Custody Anti-Discrimination bill, which is a Very Good Bill, passed to much acclaim. Well done.
- The Transplant Discrimination Prohibition bill also was universally loved in the General Assembly and is currently sitting on the Governor’s desk awaiting his John Hancock
- A short and incomplete list of bills to watch in 2022: Balance Billing, Text-to-911, Step Therapy Reform, 340B Antidiscrimination, Health Benefit Plant Network Access and Adequacy Act, Corporal Punishment Prohibition, School Nurses, School Social Workers, RTI2 Coordinators, IEP Services Reimbursement, Sub-Min. Wage Prohibition and Medical Necessity Definition.
- The one that sticks in my craw (the most): Teacher’s Discipline Act – this is a Very Bad Bill, and is now, unfortunately, a Very Bad Law. We’ll keep working to make sure this rule gets the necessary guardrails from the Department of Ed. when they compose their implementation guidance for LEA’s.
- It’s kind of a slow lull on the Federal front – President Biden has introduced two sweeping, enormous bills that cover everything from bridges to childcare, to home and community-based services to green energy. That’s sort of occupying the minds, time and energy of many on the hill.
- On the national front, the biggest health-related issue facing the country is the state of vaccination for the COVID-19 virus – here are some good reads about how it’s going:
- NYT – Reaching Herd Immunity is Unlikely in the US, Experts Say
- “The endpoint has changed, but the most pressing challenge remains the same: persuading as many people as possible to get the shot.”
- Washington Post – Beer, bouquets and free rounds at a gun range: How local governments promote vaccines
- “Booze, bud, bouquets and a Nissan Altima. New York’s hottest club, this is not. Rather, it represents just part of the growing bounty available to those who sign up to get vaccinated against the coronavirus as the country looks anxiously toward a post-pandemic future.”
- KFF – Supply vs. Demand: Which states are reaching their Covid-19 vaccine tipping points?
- “At the lower end of the vaccine coverage spectrum, less than 50% of the adult population has received at least one dose in 13 states, including 6 that are below 45%. Nine of these states are in the South and in all, the daily rate of first vaccination per 100,000 is below the national rate.”
- The Atlantic – The Era of Mass Vaccination if Ending
- “But with more than half of Americans still unvaccinated, the COVID-19 immunization campaign is far from over. It is now entering a new phase. Instead of in convention centers and arenas, shots will be distributed across a larger number of smaller sites: pharmacies, doctors’ offices, churches, mosques, factory parking lots, barbershops, bars, breweries, even individual homes.”
- NPR – Biden Backs Waiving International Patent Protections For COVID-19 Vaccines
- “President Biden threw his support behind a World Trade Organization proposal on Wednesday to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, clearing a hurdle for vaccine-strapped countries to manufacture their own vaccines even though the patents are privately held.”
- Harvard Health – Fully vaccinated against Covid-19? So, what can you safely do?
- “Maybe you’re wondering what you can safely do now that you’re fully vaccinated. As an infectious disease specialist, I’ve provided answers to some common questions.”
- Johns Hopkins – Covid-19 Vaccines: Myth vs. Fact
- “FACT: Studies found that the two initial vaccines are both about 95% effective — and reported no serious or life-threatening side effects. There are many reasons why the COVID-19 vaccines could be developed so quickly. Here are just a few:”
- NYT – Reaching Herd Immunity is Unlikely in the US, Experts Say
- The Tennessean – here’s a great roundup of how the session played out in the General Assembly
- Commercial Appeal – Memphis is preparing for the FDA to approve the use of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for 12-15 year old’s. The process for receiving the vaccine will resemble that of adults, except that a child’s guardian must be present.
- WZTV – the Tennessee state fair will have a new home in Wilson County this summer after Governor Lee signed legislation confirming the move. Personally, coming from a state where the State Fair is capitalized and about 2 million people visit annually to have food on a stick and see piglets being born, I’m glad Wilson County is getting a shot to grow Tennessee’s fair.
To my dear, loyal readers: I thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading the updates over the last few months, for being the backbone of our GRASSROOTS, and for living out the mission every day. I’m sad to say this will be the last weekly policy update until January, but it won’t be the last of our work. Keep an eye out for more policy content on our website, including a full priority bill roundup, a few articles on some important issues we’re working on and a bit of general good humor, puns, metaphors and, of course, GIFs.