Here are this session’s most important bills for medical professionals, according to the Colorado Medical Society
With the Colorado Legislature recently resuming after a hiatus, the Colorado Medical Society (CMS) is gearing up to advocate for its policy priorities through its support of key bills. Bryan Campbell, CEO of CMS, and Chet Seward, the organization’s chief strategy officer, spoke with State of Reform about CMS’s key priorities, the legislation they’re watching and why their positions on these bills are important for Colorado’s medical professionals.
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Campbell gave an overview of some of the issue areas CMS is directing most of its attention to. He said their top priority this session is physician access to confidential counseling. Currently, Colorado has a program in which physicians experiencing stress burnout as well as general mental health issues can access needed confidential care. According to Campbell, this program is at risk of being eliminated.
“It’s a model program that has been recognized and duplicated nationally. It was the first one in the country to do it, and unfortunately, this change would have removed that access to confidential care. It’s very well-documented that lack of access to confidential care is the number one reason for physicians not seeking that care.”
Campbell explained that physicians not receiving care, in turn, can lead to them not taking medications for mental illnesses. This results in an overall detriment to patient health, he said.
Seward said whether or not CMS will actually present a bill in support of this program will depend on what the Colorado Medical Board decides to do about the program later this year, based on stakeholder input. Campbell affirmed that, should the need arise, CMS is prepared to pursue a legislative defense of the program.
“This is the highest priority that we have. We are working within the administrative system to solve that without having to do legislation, but we also the vote counts, the bill language and everything ready to go to run the bill, if and when we need to run the bill.”
In what Campbell says is the organization’s second highest priority, CMS is attempting to make it easier for physicians to receive credentials. They are supporting SB 21-126 in order to reduce the burden for credentialing, which would expedite the credentialing process and reduce excessive paperwork.
“That’s just to the core of our business of trying to make the practice of medicine easier for our members, to get the undue burden of paperwork and things like that out of the way and get them to what they want to do, which is practice medicine.”
This bill, currently awaiting deliberation in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, would require the physician credentialing process to last no longer than 60 days after their insurance carrier receives the application.
The organization has yet to take an official “yes” or “no” stance on Colorado’s much-discussed public option bill — or, as Campbell describes it, “the elephant in the room.” While CMS is hopeful about several of its goals, such as increased health care affordability, they also have concerns about its other requirements. For instance, Campbell says CMS is adamantly opposed to the mandatory participation of physicians required by the program.
“There’s also concern about the way that the bill is implemented. The first two years really call for market solution in which physicians really don’t have a say in how attaining the goals — the 20% reduction that is called for over the first two years — physicians not only don’t have a seat at the table or really a way to provide input to get to the solution, but are most likely going to have their reimbursement affected as a result of that too.”
Seward said, especially since they just received the first draft of the bill, CMS needs to further evaluate the measure prior to taking an official stance.
Seward explained that CMS is opposing SB 21-061, which he called an attempt by lawyers to interfere with current liability laws pertaining to physician practice. The bill would change common law to allow minors to recover pre-majority economic losses from health care professionals and institutions. Currently, only the parents of minors are permitted to do this.
Another issue of interest for CMS is medical marijuana distribution. Through its opposition of HB 21-1058, CMS is stating that physicians shouldn’t be allowed to prescribe medical marijuana to patients remotely. Seward said physicians aren’t currently allowed to do this for opioids, so they shouldn’t be able to for marijuana.
According to Seward, the bill’s title, “Promoting Social Distancing in the Marijuana Industry,” is misleading, and detracts from the actual intent of the bill:
“It’s the classic example of the use of words to hide the intention of the actual bill. It’s using “social distancing”, which is a buzz phrase right now in the wake of COVID-19 … It’s a bill to put medical marijuana in telehealth and to allow for the online distribution of marijuana. Period.”
The organization doesn’t believe patients should be allowed such easy access to marijuana, calling the bill an attempt by the marijuana industry to increase business and that the lack of oversight will ultimately harm patients.
A full list of the legislation CMS is tracking is available here.