Five health bills have been signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback, including one that gives more legal protection to health care providers who refuse to offer care that may lead to an abortion.
Current law already prohibits forcing health care providers to participate in abortions and protects from lawsuits those who refuse to participate.
SB 62 extends that liability protection to all medical care facilities, administrators and governing boards. It also adds language that protects providers who refuse to make referrals or provide drugs that they believe could lead to the termination of a pregnancy.
Critics of the law, which takes effect in July, have said that it will restrict access to birth control.
Dental hygienist permit
Brownback also signed House Bill 2631, which will allow dental hygienists with a Level III Extended Care Permit to provide more types of care to underserved patients.
Procedures allowed under the new permit include certain types of temporary fillings, smoothing chipped teeth, adjusting dentures and applying local anesthetics.
To qualify for the permit, hygienists must have at least 2,000 hours of dental hygiene experience — or have been an instructor at an accredited dental hygiene program — and complete an 18-hour instructional course.
Advocates for improved access to services have said the new permit is a small step in the right direction but doesn't do enough to address the state's shortage of dental providers. Advocates have introduced legislation that would license mid-level dental providers, a move opposed by most dentists.
The bill also:
• Requires the Kansas Board of Regents to seek additional openings for Kansas students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry. Graduates would be required to provide dental care in underserved areas of Kansas for at least four years.
• Establishes a volunteer dental license for retired dentists who want to provide care to poor or underserved populations.
• Expands the locations where charitable dental services could be performed and dentists would be exempt from liability. Currently, dentists are limited to offering free dental care protected from lawsuits at large occasional events such as Mission of Mercy. The new locations will be sanctioned individually by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and dentists will be required to organize the charitable care around the approved events in order to receive liability protection.
Newborn screening program fund
Also signed into law was Senate Bill 14, which creates a fund to pay for the state’s newborn screening program. The program tests infants for 29 metabolic and health disorders to help catch the problems early and prevent disability or death.
Health maintenance organization privilege taxes will pay for the screening program's costs — whatever they might be — and the remainder of the HMO tax collections will be deposited in the State General Fund. The screening fund will begin in fiscal 2013.
In fiscal 2011, $8.4 million was collected from the HMO tax, all of which went into the general fund. The newborn screening program cost $2.2 million in fiscal 2011 and by fiscal 2014 would cost $2.4 million, officials at Kansas Department of Health and Environment have said.
Kansas is one of only three states that do not charge a newborn-screening fee as part of the hospital bill for a delivery. KDHE officials have said efforts to rally support for imposing a fee in Kansas were unsuccessful.
Since 2009, the program has been paid for by settlement dollars from the nation’s major tobacco companies, but those funds are expected to decline in future years.
Other bills signed into law
• HB 2471 standardizes how appointments are made to the Board of Adult Care Home Administrators. The bill puts into law how appointments have long been made informally. Currently, the board is composed of three adult care home administrators, two health care providers and two consumer representatives.
• SB 134 amends the Pharmacy Act, the Uniform Controlled Substances Act and the Prescription Monitoring Program Act.
It modifies regulations to allow electronic prescriptions for controlled substances, spells out who can access data from the Prescription Monitoring Program and allows for the distribution to practitioners of free samples of Schedule V non-narcotic depressants. It also adds Carisoprodol, a muscle relaxant, to the Schedule IV controlled substances list and Ezogabine, an anticonvulsant, to the Schedule V list.
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