Here’s how the 2024 session of the Indiana Legislature affects your health care

Because it was an election year and the primaries were approaching, the clear intention of Indiana General Assembly leadership in 2024 was a short session, avoiding controversial issues.

The session indeed turned out to be the lightest and most insignificant in my memory.

Here is my health-related legislative overview for 2024 from a general practitioner’s perspective. It is mainly characterized by failed legislation and not by bills that have reached the finish line.

Bills that died

  • SB 3 would have tempered the insurance industry’s spiraling prior authorization requirements for medical services, drugs, and testing. Prior authorization is largely unnecessary and inappropriate, resulting in the denial, interruption, and delay of medical care. The bill stalled, but received excellent bipartisan support. It will come back.

  • HB 1053 would have essentially removed fentanyl test strips from criminal statutes regarding possession of controlled substance paraphernalia. This would have gone a long way in preventing overdoses.

  • HB 1059, the independent practice of nurses (nurse practitioners) with prescriptive authority, was not heard again this session. Good.

  • HB 1215 would have allowed vaccinations by dental hygienists on the prescription of a dentist. What do dental hygienists and dentists know about vaccines?

  • HB 1167 would have required continuing education for physicians and other health care providers about implicit bias. This important topic for equitable health care is already being addressed in professional health schools, medical schools, and residencies.

  • HB 1266 would have provided that health care providers and entities would not be required to provide or refer patients with health care services that conflict with their moral, religious, or ethical beliefs. The provider would not be subject to discrimination or other sanctions, including civil actions. Balancing patient access with respecting deeply held beliefs of individuals and institutions is a difficult issue.

  • HB 1071 would have granted exemptions from immunization requirements of employers, child care facilities and state educational institutions. In addition to the more traditionally accepted exemptions, the bill included allowing individuals to refuse vaccination after merely being informed of the health risks. This was not good public health policy and would have put others at risk from exposure to vaccine-preventable diseases.

  • HB 11 was a measure for medical assistance in dying. MAID is legal in ten states to better ensure that those who voluntarily request it can die on their own terms, without dependence on others, and with dignity. There is strong opposition from the legislature to this controversial issue. Not at all in Indiana.

  • There were nine marijuana-related bills introduced. No one got a hearing in committee. All surrounding states have introduced some form of marijuana legalization.

Passed bills of paramount importance to the public

  • HB 1259 supports research into psilocybin (a psychedelic drug) for the treatment of resistant depression, PTSD, addictions and other mental health conditions. Psilocybin treatment is revolutionary and not based on marginal science.

  • HB 1426 requires hospitals to offer long-acting reversible implanted contraceptives to Medicaid mothers after delivery. The bill was controversial because it did not include IUDs, which some consider an abortion. But in light of the new abortion statute, anything done to prevent unwanted/unintended pregnancies is a step forward.

  • SB 273 requires insurance and Medicaid coverage for testing biomarkers important for the diagnosis and treatment of certain diseases.

  • SB 9 Requires mergers of health care entities of at least $10 million (primarily hospital systems and insurance companies) to file with the Attorney General’s office for review of antitrust issues and community impacts. There are concerns that mergers could potentially limit access and choice for patients and increase healthcare costs.

Next year will be very busy.

Dr. Richard Feldman is an Indianapolis family physician and former Indiana health commissioner. Email him at [email protected].

This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: Feldman: How the 2024 Session of Indiana Legislature Affects Your Health Care