Health policy bills moving through the Alaska legislature

A physician-assisted suicide bill is among several pieces of legislation working its way through the two health and social services committees in the Alaska House and Senate.

Rep. Harriet Drummond, D-Anchorage, introduced HB 99, which would create a physician-assisted suicide law.

The bill calls for a patient to make an oral request and a written request to the attending physician — followed by a second oral request at least 15 days later. A second physician must confirm the attending doctor’s diagnosis that the patient’s disease is terminal. Both physicians must concur that the patient is of sound mind. The attending physician may opt out of the process and refer the patent to another doctor.

The written request must have two witnesses. One witness cannot be a relative, an heir, or an owner or employee of the patient’s health care facility. The bill also outlines what the attending physician should discuss with the patient.

Other health bills in play in Juneau include:

  •  HB 18 by Reps. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, and Sam Kito, D-Juneau, would add people who earn less than 133 percent of the federal poverty line to those eligible for state Medicaid assistance.
  • HB 33 by Rep. Kurt Olson, R-Soldotna, would allow the state to issue cease-and-desist orders or injunctive relief against a health care insurance navigator if that individual or firm violates federal or state laws.
  • HB 170 by Rep. Harriet Drummond, D-Anchorage, would give certified nurses aides the same legal protections as nurses against forced overtime work. It also provides the same exceptions to that overtime law as pertaining to nurses — mainly addressing staffing shortages in rural communities and other specific circumstances where extended work times would be needed such as air transport situations.
  • HB 215 by Rep. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, and SB 113 by Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, would allow doctors to use investigational drugs and devices on terminally ill patients with the patient’s consent and after all Federal Drug Administration-approved avenues have been used or ruled out. An investigational drug would by one that has passed its Phase 1 tests, but has not been approved by the FDA.
  • HB 227 by Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, would set a minimum threshold of 50 for state-contracted audits of medical assistance providers. It would also tweak other parts of the state’s medical assistance auditing law.
  • HB 234 by Rep. Liz Vasquez, R- Anchorage, would require any insurance provider that provides mental health benefits to also offer those benefits for mental health care by telemedicine.
  • HB 237 by Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, and HB 238 by Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, would enact the Interstate Licensure Compact, which is an arrangement to streamline the medical licensing process as physicians move among the member states. Alaska and five other states introduced this legislation this year. The others are Washington, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, and New Hampshire.
  • HB 239 by Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, that would require the state director of insurance inform the public about proposed rate increases, and provide the public the opportunity to give feedback.
  • SB 72 by Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, would require hospitals to provide the opportunity to parents being discharged to name an unpaid caregiver who would receive the pertinent medical information to perform that task. But the bill would not require an individual to accept the role of caregiver.
  • SB 98 by Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, would allow doctors to prescribe drugs — as long as those drugs are not controlled substances — without an in-person examination.