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Bills Pass Dealing with Covid 19

This information comes from 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley, MD and R-Hohenwald. who represents Giles and five other counties.

The 112th General Assembly has adjourned for 2022, and it was a very successful year. We have taken measures for Tennessee to be a better place to live, work and to raise a family. I will go over laws passed this session over the next few weeks.

COVID-19 visitation law – A new law ensures that those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities may have visitors in end-of-life situations, even during a public health emergency for COVID-19.

Visitors must follow safety protocols, cannot exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 or other communicable diseases, and cannot violate federal or state law regulating each facility.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, too many Tennesseans were unable to be with loved ones in their last days. This law ensures that won’t happen again.

COVID-19 vaccine exemptions — A new law codifies medical and religious exemptions for COVID-19 vaccine mandates and provides an enforcement mechanism for those seeking an exemption.

It ensures employers grant religious or medical exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates, and imposes a $10,000 fine for employers who fail to comply with this law.

In 2021, President Joe Biden issued an executive order requiring healthcare workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The order, which was initially enjoined by federal courts before being upheld as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, included provisions that compel applicable employers to honor religious and medical exemptions.

Telehealth —A new law ensures that telehealth services will continue to be reimbursed by insurance companies beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

The measure deletes the sunset provision of the telehealth bill enacted by the General Assembly in 2020 to ensure patients could safely meet with their doctor remotely via telehealth and be reimbursed by their insurance companies consistent with in-person visits.

Without the new law this year, the 2020 law would have expired in April.

New Tennessee Center for Nursing Advancement – A new law aims to address nursing workforce needs by creating the Tennessee Center for Nursing Advancement.

The center would be within East Tennessee State University in conjunction with Ballad Health.

The new measure allows the center to collect and aggregate data on nursing turnover, reasons for nursing turnover and successful recruitment practices. Data would be published in reports while maintaining confidentiality and could lead to future policy considerations. There is no common database for nursing shortages. ETSU/Ballad have pledged $10 million to start the center, and $1 million a year for management of the center is in the 2022/2023 budget.

Working to increase wages for healthcare professionals – A healthcare task force will be created to review reimbursement of healthcare professionals employed by healthcare agencies.

Under a new law, this task force would include studying fair market pay for direct support professionals (DSP), mental health providers, and children’s services workers. It works to address worker shortages and staffing challenges many state providers face, largely due to compensation of these professionals.

This task force aims to be a part of a long-term solution to address staffing challenges by doing a deep dive into data trends and compensation rates.

Improving efficiency of the Certificate of Need process – The General Assembly approved a measure to provide funding to reform Tennessee’s Certificate of Need (CON) program and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of how Tennessee’s healthcare system is managed.

CON is a legal document required for a hospital or health care facility to locate or expand its capacity

From increasing the number of hospital beds or the types of imaging that can be conducted, under the CON process a healthcare facility has to apply to the state’s Health Services and Development Agency (HSDA) for permission.

Based on recommendations from HSDA to improve the CON process, the Board for Licensing Healthcare Facilities will merge with HSDA to form the Health Facilities Commission. Funds allocated this year will complete the first phase of the process to create the new Health Facilities Commission and improve CON requirements.

Increasing access to law enforcement officers at hospitals (repeat from Law Enforcement) – A new law aims to help increase public safety at hospital facilities by allowing them to employ and commission police officers to provide security.

The new measure seeks to meet a growing need for law enforcement at hospitals, specifically in emergency departments which have had an increase in patient volume and emotionally charged patient admissions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the legislation, police officers hired by hospital facilities would only have law enforcement authority at the geographic location of the hospital.

Strengthening care for Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers — The Col. Thomas G. Bowden Memorial Act was passed by the General Assembly to establish a three-year pilot program called the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Respite Care Program.

The program will provide respite care services for families caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, as well as those living with Alzheimer’s disease.

One million dollars was included in this year’s budget to fund the pilot program, which will be limited to 225 enrollees each fiscal year, and will extend from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2025.

The bill is named in memoriam of Retired Colonel Thomas G. Bowden, a Tullahoma native who dedicated 26 years of service to the United States Army and received the Distinguished Service Medal, among other awards. He lost his life to Alzheimer’s at age 68.

Enhancing insurance coverage for mammograms — A new measure updates statute to better reflect all of the technology utilized for breast imaging and cancer screenings.

The change in code will ensure patients have access to all low-dose mammography services, including 3D imaging, digital imaging and digital mammography and X-ray.

Previous law required health insurers that provide coverage for surgical services for mastectomy to also provide coverage for mammography.

But this change will ensure those patients have access to new technology as well. It also includes coverage of supplemental and diagnostic screenings using MRI and ultrasounds when necessary.

The bill applies to the state health plan, commercial plans and TennCare coverage with certain exceptions.

Expanding access to wheelchairs – A new law will expand access to important medical equipment for Tennesseans who need assistance getting around outside their homes. Those who require Complex Rehabilitation Technology (CRT), defined as high-end, power and manual wheelchairs, are able to obtain them through their health insurance.

Chairs are expensive and can range from $25,000 to $45,000, requiring many people to rely on insurance to afford them.

Previous policies denied a wheelchair to someone in need if taken outside of their home to places such as church, the grocery store, or doctor’s appointments.

This bill prohibits a health insurer from considering the location of where CRT can be used when making the medical necessity determination.

Helping the visually impaired with prescription medication – To ensure a visually impaired individual will have access to prescription labels and materials that are appropriate to their needs, a new law allows those with disabilities to request their prescription information to be printed with either large print or Braille, or given audibly.

This will prevent those with visual impairments from taking the wrong medication or dosage.

Hensley may be contacted at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742, Nashville ,TN 37243, or by calling 615-741-3100, or by calling toll free 1-800-449-8366 ext. 13100, or by faxing 615-253-0231.

His district address is 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald, TN 38462,

His telephone number is 931-796-2018, and his cell phone is 931-212-8823. His E-mail: sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov

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Information in this column comes from the office of 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley M.D., who represents Giles and five other counties. From school bus drivers to trucking, the lack of Commercia