(The Center Square) – Some Pennsylvania health care regulations were temporarily suspended to adapt to COVID-19. Now, these changes may become permanent.
HB2401, introduced by Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Lycoming, would loosen restrictions for home health care. “The past two years have taught us that some of these flexibilities should stay in place permanently as we have learned that the regulations themselves are outdated,” Wheeland said in a House Memo.
Specifically, Wheeland’s bill would make two changes: registered nurses and physical assistants could order and oversee orders for home health services, no longer relying on the approval of a physician; and supervisory visits to ensure that patients receive care could be conducted remotely to ensure more flexibility.
The changes would align state law with federal law. The CARES Act has changed federal law to allow what HB2401 will accomplish, but Pennsylvania licensure regulations, if not for the current temporary waivers, still require physician approval and do not allow remote visits.
Health care waivers to expand telehealth in particular have been popular since the pandemic started. Twenty-one states have approved waivers to allow out-of-state physicians to provide services in-state, prescribe medicine without an in-person visit, and other services, according to the Federation of State Medical Boards. Much of this has become the new normal – 19 states have long-term or permanent interstate telemedicine after realizing its positive effects.
The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania has been supportive of similar regulatory reforms. The changes have helped reduce the severity of staff shortages and maintained access to health care during the pandemic.