More health bills pass as legislative session ends; one would require doctor’s OK to play student athletes after concussions

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Several more health-related legislation passed in the final two days of the General Assembly’s session.

House Bill 524, sponsored by Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, to prevent and reduce human trafficking, passed without dissent in both chambers and now awaits action from Gov. Matt Bevin.

As often happens in the final hours of a legislative session, some unrelated measures were tacked onto the bill, including non-controversial legislation to more clearly define “serious physical injury” in child-abuse cases involving children under 13.

Several other health-related bills passed in the last days of the session and await action from the governor. Bills passed after the veto period are not eligible to be overridden by the General Assembly, so Bevin’s decision on these bills will be final. They include:

HB 333, sponsored by Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, would limit most painkiller prescriptions to a three-day supply for acute pain, and change how synthetic-opioid traffickers are prosecuted.

HB 78, sponsored by Rep. Jim Duplessis, R-Elizabethtown, to require providers of standard mammograms to notify patients if they have “dense breast tissue” when appropriate, because such tissue can hide cancers. The intent of the notice is to allow patients to decide with their provider if they need further screening.

HB 241, sponsored by Rep. John Sims, D-Flemingsburg, would require written clearance from a physician for a coach to play a student-athlete who has been diagnosed with or is suspected of having a concussion.

House Concurrent Resolution 48, sponsored by Walker Thomas, R-Hopkinsville, urges the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to withdraw its proposal to reduce the levels of N-nitrosonornicotine, or NNN, a carcinogen, in all smokeless-tobacco products sold in the U.S. Thomas’s district is a home of dark tobacco, used in smokeless products, and Hopkinsville has a plant that makes such products.

Bevin has signed a bill to establish review panels for malpractice cases. SB 4 was controversial, pitting lawyers against doctors such as the sponsor, Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester. It passed the House 51-45, with 11 Republicans joining 34 Democrats in voting no, even after substantial changes sought by opponents.

Under the new law, three physicians will say whether a suit against a health-care provider has merit before it could be filed in court. An attorney will chair the panel but not have a vote. The judge in the case would decide whether the panel’s opinion could be admitted as evidence.

Also of note, the General Assembly overrode Bevin’s veto of SB 91, which will allow judges to order mentally ill adults who meet strict criteria into an “assisted outpatient treatment” program, and confine them if they don’t comply.

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