The 2015 Legislative Session is finally over! This is a review or our efforts on behalf of the OCA to influence legislation at the Capitol this year. There have been a significant number of bills that could have adversely affected your livelihood.
The Supreme Court, in the case of OSCIPA vs Fallon, ruled that discrimination against Chiropractors at the Workers Compensation Commission is unconstitutional. It held that Chiropractors must be included in language regarding who could treat Workers Comp. patients, and who could then render expert opinions upon which disability awards could be based.
After several conferences with the new Commissioners and their staff we were able to make sure the New WCC Rules follow the Supreme Court ruling, and not the Oklahoma Workers Compensation Act passed three sessions ago. That Act repeated the old Unconstitutional law, word for word, and passed it in the new Workers Compensation Act (Title 85A).
Our task at the Capital has been to obtain an amendment of the New Workers Compensation Act, Section 45, to correct the unconstitutional language. As you may know, there have been many voices trying effect changes in that Act to fit their particular wants or needs.
In an effort to obtain wide acceptance for the Chiropractors' position on Workers Comp., we made presentations to a number of organizations, including the State Chamber of Commerce and their Legislative Committee. We also made a presentation to Patients First, which is an alliance of health care provider organizations, including the Oklahoma Medical Association and the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association. All of these organizations were in agreement with our effort to include chiropractors in the language.
It was the first time "Patients First" had allowed Chiropractors to make a presentation to their group. I think it was a valuable step toward working with other health care organizations.
We were able to get our language into the Workers Compensation corrections bill, SB767, and it was signed by the Governor on June 4. 2015. This effectively closes the circle on the long legal fight waged by OSCIPA and their victory in the Supreme Court. The statute now complies with the Court's order, and Chiropractors now have full rights at the Workers Compensation Commission.
There was still lingering opposition very late in the process to Chiropractors having the full right to treat Workers Compensation patients. It wasn't until the last two days of session that they actually included our language in the bill. Representative Jon Echols, the House author of the bill, was our advocate and refused to allow the bill to proceed out of Conference Committee without our language. If you know him or if you see him please thank him for his strong stand for Chiropractors.
HB1567 and SB648 started out as identical bills. We had a problem with them because they allowed the State Health Insurance plans for State employees to discriminate against Chiropractors. We were able to amend out the offensive language in HB 1567 in the House Insurance Committee, and SB648 on the Senate Floor. HB1567 was eventually passed and signed by the Governor. SB648 is dead for this year.
SB765 was another bill that could have potentially been significant for Chiropractors. The current "statute of repose" (statute of limitations) allows the filing of a malpractice cause of action against a physician for a tort against a child for as many as 20 years after the act, in certain circumstances. This bill would reduce that time from 20 years to no more than 4 years.
The problem is that the language of the bill defined "health care provider" as only MD's and DO's and their employees. It would exclude Chiropractors from the same more favorable 4 year statute of repose.
The good news is that we currently have an agreement with the MD's, DO's and insurance interests to change the definition of "health care provider" to include all physicians and their employees, which would include Chiropractors. This is a significant change and moves this bill from the "defeat" column to the "strongly support" column. SB765 was delayed in committee but is still alive for the second half of the session next year. This is an important bill that we need to stay ahead of next year.
SB615 is an attempt to amend the existing "Licensed Dietitian Act" to broaden their definition. However, it specifically excludes Chiropractors from its purview. MD's, DO's, Chiropractors and others could still engage in the "practice of dietetics or nutrition when incidental to the practice of their profession, except that such persons may not use the titles 'dietitian', 'dietician' or 'nutritionist'..."
This bill will still be alive for next year but has a huge hill to climb in the House. Please let us know if it would create a problem for you as a chiropractic practitioner.
Another bill we followed was SB830 by Senator Ervin Yen MD. Current law allows parents to refuse immunization for their children for any reason, or for no reason. This bill would deny parents the authority to refuse immunization for their children. A number of Chiropractors had concerns with this bill.
SB830 is still alive for next year. This would be a significant breech of personal liberty as it pertains to your authority over your children as a parent.
SB434 was a request bill from the OBCE. It passed both houses and was signed by the Governor on April 21, 2015. It has two components.
1. It amends the Chiropractic Practice Act to make the procedure for investigation of formal complaints against Chiropractors more in line with the MD's and DO's procedure. One of the problems it addresses is the current law which allows public access to complaints and investigatory files. The new language keeps all complaint and investigatory files confidential unless a formal action is approved by the full Board after an investigation.
2. It amends the Chiropractic Practice Act to allow for foreign Chiropractors to present documentation of equivalent educational background in order to qualify to apply for an original license by examination. This provision was patterned after existing language for medical doctors.
We worked for the passage of this bill with legislators and it passed with overwhelming support. We also presented it to Patients First in an effort to derail any opposition. They were very appreciative that we had informed them of the intent, and were then supportive.