Part 3 of our New Jersey Legislative Update focuses on the remaining bills that have become law in New Jersey and will impact healthcare. Overall, eighteen bills became law in the past few months. This Update focuses on the last four bills, including one that allows physical therapists to perform dry needling. In addition, this Update addresses an Executive Order signed by Governor Murphy that is intended to curtail the costs of health care in New Jersey. 

We should note that the New Jersey Legislature has already proposed dozens more bills that impact health care in the current legislative cycle. We will continue to track those proposed bills. For more information on the other bills that became law in the past few months, see Part 1 and Part 2 of our Legislative Update.

Bill S4233 – Limits fees charged to patients and authorized third parties for medical and billing records.

Under this bill, the fee for reproducing a medical record may not exceed $50 per individual admission or patient record. The bill also provides that a hospital or a health care professional may not charge any fee for providing an electronic or paper reproduction of a billing record requested by a patient, a patient's legally authorized representative, or an authorized third party. Additionally, the bill prohibits charging fees to certain low income individuals participating in certain government assistance programs, as well as their representatives. The law shall take effect on the first day of the fourth month next following the date of enactment, which was January 18, 2022.

Bill S3975 - Establishes requirements to commence screening newborn infants for congenital cytomegalovirus infection.

This bill establishes requirements to commence screening newborn infants for congenital cytomegalovirus ("cCMV") infection, as well as a public awareness campaign to educate pregnant persons about cCMV. Pursuant to this bill, all infants born in New Jersey shall be tested for cCMV, unless an infant's parent or legal guardian opts out of testing, contingent on a number of prerequisite events, including the development of a reliable test or series of tests for screening newborns for cCMV using dried blood spots and quality assurance testing methodology for cCMV testing. The law is effective immediately.

Bill S867 – Permits physical therapists to perform dry needling under certain circumstances.

This bill amends N.J.S.A. 45:9-37 to permit physical therapists to perform a procedure known as "dry needling" under certain circumstances. Dry needling is a technique used in the practice of physical therapy using a dry, filiform needle to penetrate the skin to treat myofascial, muscular, and connective tissues for the management of neuromuscular pain and movement dysfunction. This is not to be mistaken for acupuncture done by a licensed acupuncturist.  This bill sets forth the requirements for physical therapists to carry out this treatment, including requirements for the physical therapists' credentials, safety requirements, and necessary disclosures to patients. Physical therapists were previously permitted to use this technique until a 2017 New Jersey Attorney General Opinion was issued that concluded, pursuant to their existing scope of practice at the time, "physical therapists are not authorized to engage in the practice of dry needling."  The law shall take effect on the 90th day next following enactment, which was January 18, 2022.

Bill S1771 – Expressly prohibits invasive examination of unconscious patients by health care practitioners without the patient's prior informed written consent.

This bill provides that no individual licensed or certified to practice health care may conduct an invasive examination of any patient while the patient is under general anesthesia or otherwise unconscious without the patient's informed written consent to the invasive examination. The bill additionally sets forth the requirements for the form of the required written consent. 

This restriction does not apply in the case of an emergency, in which the patient is unconscious or unresponsive and it reasonably appears that immediate medical treatment is necessary to prevent severe or worsening injury to the patient or to save the patient's life. In such cases, a health care practitioner may render necessary and appropriate emergency treatment services, including any invasive examination of the patient that is necessary to evaluate and determine the appropriate course of emergency treatment for the patient. In such emergency circumstances, the health care practitioner must notify the patient that an invasive examination was performed as soon as practicable.  Note, however, that this exception does not supersede a patient's verified Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment documentation. The law is effective immediately.

Executive Order No. 277 – Governor Murphy creates program to reduce health care costs in New Jersey.

Governor Phil Murphy signed this Executive Order to launch the New Jersey Health Care Cost Growth Benchmark Program. The goal of this program is to decrease health care costs each year by setting benchmark amounts for the annual cost growth over the subsequent year, starting at 3.5% for 2023 over 2022, and decreasing for each year thereafter for the next 5 years down to 2.8% of growth from the prior year in 2027. In addition to setting these benchmarks, Executive Order No. 277 authorizes the collection and analysis of data to better understand health care costs in New Jersey. The order is effective immediately.  

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