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Delaware Legislative Healthcare Update: End of 2021 Session

With the first leg of Delaware’s 151st General Assembly in the rear-view mirror, we thought now would be a good time for a highlights reel on the unprecedented number of healthcare related legislation passed or considered in 2021, with a look ahead to the resumption of session in January of 2022, and annotations for those who do not reside in the First State.

  • HB 160 w/HA 1 Signed by the Governor on June 23rd, HB 160 preserves telehealth beyond the pandemic, increases access to crucial healthcare services, and adopts the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact
  • SS 1 for SB 120 Ready to be signed by Governor, however it was met with opposition from most legislators who are “South of the Canal”[1] as they felt this bill benefits Christiana Care[2] and not those providing healthcare services outside of Lower Slower[3]. Nevertheless, the bill language suggests it strengthens primary care system Delaware by:
  1. Directing health Care Commissioner to monitor compliance with value-based care delivery models, as well as develop and monitor compliance with alternative payment methods
  2. Requiring unit price growth to certain percentage increases for inpatient, outpatient, and other medical services
  3. Requiring an insurance carrier to spend a certain percentage of its total cost on primary care
  4. Requiring the Office of Value-Based Health Care Delivery to establish mandatory minimums for payment innovations, including alternative payment models
  5. Providing rate filings for nonprofessional services with health benefit plans may not exceed a certain percentage
  6. Changing date for mandatory minimums for payment innovations to January 1, 2026
  7. Removing sunset date requiring individual, group, and State employee insurance plans to reimburse health care workers for chronic care management and primary care at no less than the physician Medicare rate.
  • HB 21 and 141 Sponsored by Rep. Minor-Brown and ready to be signed by the Governor, these sister bills allow Delaware to join the Advance Practice Registered Nurse Compact, which will be established when seven states have enacted it into law.
  • HB 234 Sponsored by Rep. Minor-Brown, this bill did not receive a hearing on the House or Senate floor but did make it out of committee. It was introduced after the budget was done, which could have been the reason it did not move ahead as there was a fiscal note of more than $4 million. Perhaps one to keep an eye out for in 2022, as this bill aims to extend Medicaid coverage for to up to 12 months postpartum for new mothers.
  • HB 48, Sponsored by Rep. Dave Bentz with bipartisan support from both chambers, HB 48 is ready to be signed by the Governor. The bill establishes a Health Care Provider Loan Repayment Program.
  • SB 44, Sponsored by Senator Laura Sturgeon, this bill was signed by the Governor. This act would allow Drug Overdose Fatality Review Commission to review all deaths related to drug overdose, regardless of the type of drugs involved.
  • SB 55, Sponsored by Senator Dave Sokola, this bill is waiting to be signed by the Governor. It seeks to provide schools with access and training to epinephrine auto injectors, otherwise known as an “EpiPen”.
  • SB 60, Sponsored by Senator Ernie Lopez with bipartisan support from members of both chambers, this bill was signed by the Governor. This bill amends Title 16 of the Delaware Code relating to Medical Marijuana by allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to recommend medical marijuana for adult patients.
  • SB 25 Sponsored by Senator Townsend, this bill provides Insurance Coverage and Reimbursement for Chiropractic Services.

 Mental Health

  • SB 166 Sponsored by Senator Hansen, the Opioid Impact Fee is ready to be signed by the Governor. This bill helps to address the harm caused by the opioid crisis by establishing oversight committees for the settlement funds received from opioid distributors, manufacturers, and pharmacies
  • HB 100, Sponsored by the Majority Leader Rep. Longhurst, this bill is ready to be signed by the Governor. The bill establishes mental health services for all public elementary schools in Delaware by providing funding for school counselors, social workers, and school psychologist.
  • HB 233 Sponsored by Rep. Krista Griffith was on the consent agenda and approved by the Senate in one of their final acts during this session. Once signed into law by the Governor, this bill will allow the Delaware Board of Examiners of Psychology more flexibility when evaluating reciprocity applicants, effectively removing potential barriers for psychologists from other states to practice in Delaware and helping to narrow the gap in demand for these services.
  • HB 55, Sponsored by Rep. Sean Matthews with bipartisan support from both chambers, HB 55 was signed by the Governor. The bill continues the momentum established in New Hampshire; the “Gun Shop Project” reaches out to gun shops regarding the role they can play in suicide prevention. HB 55 puts the Delaware Suicide Prevention coalition at the head of this project as they develop and create suicide prevention education materials to be distributed to gun shops or other organizations deemed appropriate to give to individuals purchasing a firearm or applying to be licensed in the state to carry a concealed deadly weapon.

Reproductive Rights

  • HB 31 Sponsored by Majority Leader, Rep. Longhurst, this bill is ready to be signed by the Governor. It repeals provisions relating to abortion, which formerly treated abortions differently than other medical procedures; the bill also repeals provisions which criminalize women seeking the procedure as well as and the sale of medical devices and medicines utilized in abortions.

When session resumes in January, watch for continued debate on marijuana legalization, environmental justice issues, paid family medical leave, support for behavioral health services and improving social determinants of health. This legislature appears poised to continue pursuit of bold initiatives in the healthcare area to address Delaware voters’ most urgent concerns, but may continue to evoke passionate opposition, especially at the grassroots, when legislation involves classic Culture War matters framed as public health issues such as guns, abortion, government regulations, and LGBTQIA+ rights. For now, revenues appear to support a robust healthcare agenda as well. We welcome the opportunity to discuss representation during the upcoming session as the healthcare legislative landscape continues to rapidly change.

[1] The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, popularly seen as the dividing line between Lower Slower (see below) and northern part of the State. 

[2] The State’s only level 1 Trauma Center located north of the Canal, in Newark, Delaware

[3] Lower Slower refers to the lands South of the Canal. See, e.g. Nicholls, Walter, “Lower Slower Delaware,” Washington Post (May 26, 2004); “LSD” or Lower Slower Delaware stickers proliferate on vehicles below the Canal and may be purchased online.

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