This time of year, numerous bills get passed and approved by the New Jersey Legislative Branch and Governor. This year is no different. This update focuses on several bills impacting health care that have recently become law. We will issue another update that addresses other bills that have also become law.

Bill A4139 - Establishes requirements for copies of medical and billing records to be provided without charge to Social Security Disability benefits applicants and recipients.

This bill amends N.J.S.A. 26:2H-5n and N.J.S.A. 45:9-22.27 to restrict certain hospitals and healthcare providers licensed by the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners from charging fees to Social Security Disability benefit applicants and recipients for requested medical records. The restriction on charging fees applies to both the patient whose medical records are being requested as well as attorneys representing the patient. The bill further requires that medical and billing records be delivered in the manner specified by the requestor, which includes, but is not limited to, mailing the record to any address or faxing the record to any number specified by the requestor, including the requestor's attorney.

Bill S845 - Requires health care professional licensing boards to utilize National Practitioner Data Bank.

The National Practitioner Data Bank is a web-based repository of reports maintained by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, which contains information on medical malpractice payments and certain adverse actions related to health care professionals to prevent health care professionals from moving from state to state without discovery of prior bad acts. 

The specific function of this bill is to require professional and occupational licensing boards within the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety that regulate the practice of a health care professional to (1) not issue an initial license or other authorization to practice a health care profession to any applicant unless the board first determines that no information exists on file in the National Practitioner Data Bank which may disqualify the applicant; and (2) utilize the continuous query function of the National Practitioner Data Bank for each person issued a license or authorization to practice a health care profession. The bill further grants authority to such professional and occupational licensing boards to refuse or revoke licensure or renewal to licensees in the event that there is cause to do so under the National Practitioner Data Bank. 

Bill S3632 - Expands exemption from restrictions on health care practitioner referrals.

This bill amends N.J.S.A. 45:9-22.5 to expand the exemption from restrictions on health care practitioner referrals to include certain arrangements and programs provided for under federal law. Specifically, under this bill, such restrictions on patient referrals no longer apply to value-based arrangements made in accordance with 42 C.F.R. 411.357(aa), payment models authorized under a Medicare shared savings program pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1395jjj, or demonstrations operated by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation established pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1315a. The bill further expands on the exemption applicable to referrals made by practitioners to a facility in which the practitioner has significant beneficial interest. In that regard, the bill requires that the practitioner make the referral in accordance with professional standards applicable to the health care service at issue.

Bill A5353 - Provides for certification of temporary nurse aides.

This bill provides a path for temporary nurse aides to become certified following the expiration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. In recognition of the accelerated training and competency demonstrated by temporary nurse aides during the pandemic, the legislature saw fit to provide a streamlined path to certification for such nurse aides. 

Under this bill, nurse aides who successfully completed a training program and competency assessment authorized under a CMS waiver declared in response to COVID-19 and subsequently worked a minimum of 80 hours under the supervision of a licensed professional nurse during the public health emergency are permitted to be issued a nurse aide certification. 

It is important to note that temporary nurse aides who have not been certified as nurse aides under this bill are permitted to work as temporary nurse aides for no more than 90 days following the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Bill S4139 - Extends temporary emergency licensure of certain health care professionals.

This bill extends the temporary emergency licensure of certain recently graduated and out-of-state health care professionals in New Jersey. Pursuant to the bill, the emergency licensure is extended to June 30, 2022, replacing the previous expiration, which allowed the licensure to continue for 60 days following the expiration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. 

Under this bill, any nurse, physician assistant, respiratory care therapist, pharmacist, or alcohol and drug counselor who holds a valid temporary emergency graduate license on the effective date of the bill shall not be required to apply for a license to continue practicing under the temporary emergency graduate license through June 30, 2022. 

Similarly, certain "Group 2 health care professionals" are permitted to continue practicing under the temporary emergency reciprocal license through June 30, 2022, including, but not limited to, licensed social workers, doctors of osteopathy, medical doctors, various types of licensed mental health professionals, advanced practice nurses, and registered professional nurses.

Bill A6072 - Increases number of hospitals eligible for highest amount of charity care subsidy payment; appropriates $30 million.

This bill modifies the thresholds by which hospitals may be entitled to charity care subsidy payments. The bill increases by one the threshold amount of hospitals set for qualifying for the maximum charity care subsidy payment of 96% of each hospital's hospital-specific reimbursed documented charity care. It likewise increases by one the 94% and lower thresholds as well.

Additionally, the bill appropriates $30 million from the General Fund to the Health Care Subsidy Fund for fiscal year 2022 for the Department of Health to provide charity care payment equal to 96% of the hospital's hospital-specific reimbursed documented charity care. 

Bill A4435 - Requires Division of Family and Community Partnerships of the Department of Children and Families ("DCF") to give priority to certain school districts with student mental health counseling centers in awarding grants under School Based Youth Services Program.

This bill supplements N.J.S.A. 30:5B to require the Office of School-Linked Services within DCF to give priority to applicant school districts that operate or host, or demonstrate a plan to operate or host, a center or other entity that focuses on providing individual, family, and group clinical mental health counseling services to students when awarding grants under the School Based Youth Services Program. The bill places certain requirements and factors for qualification under the School Based Youth Services Program including need and capability of the school district.  

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.