As Labor Day fades away, and with it, the Summer of 2019, I want to review PAOrtho’s extremely successful spring legislative session in Harrisburg, and around our state of Pennsylvania, and preview our fall agenda. 

Mitchell v. Shikora Case
Without a doubt, PAOrtho’s most significant spring victory was the state Supreme Court’s decision on the case Mitchell v. Shikora , allowing once again expert witness testimony regarding surgical risks and complications in liability cases. Prior to this ruling, the state’s Superior Court had determined that such expert testimony was too prejudicial for a jury to hear. Led by then-President Angela Rowe, DO, PAOrtho wisely filed an amicus (Friend of the Court) brief before the Supreme Court.  The high court accepted PAOrtho’s arguments as well as the defendant physician’s; reversed the lower court; and saved you thousands of dollars in increased liability insurance costs.  
PAOrtho faced a second, significant medical liability challenge. Personal injury lawyers, who gained control of the state Supreme Court’s Civil Procedural Rules Committee (an unelected body with real power and little accountability), proposed a new "venue shopping" rule that endangers PAOrtho's 2002 legislative victory requiring medical liability cases to be heard in the county where the incident is alleged.

This new rule would allow personal injury attorneys to shop liability cases around the state in order to find the most favorable jury and judgement. But PAOrtho immediately responded by holding a February 4th State Capitol Rotunda press conference to unveil legislation to stop the personal injury lawyers in their tracks.  PAOrtho’s leadership met with Governor Tom Wolf as well as legislative leaders; held a Capitol meet and greet attended by legislators from Central and Southeastern Pennsylvania; and hosted a reception for important Senate committee chairs. 

The results were a state Senate Resolution requiring a study of venue shopping’s adverse effects and a House Bill to block the new rule.  The combined legislative and administrative pressure forced the state Supreme Court to delay any "venue shopping" decision until 2020. 
PAOrtho also successfully killed Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed ambulatory surgical center (ASC) tax for the third straight year.  This tax would be imposed on ASC around the state and would disproportionately effect outpatient surgeries, and in particular Orthopaedic surgeries.

Opioid Legislation
PAOrtho has helped achieve a surgical exception in SB 112, which is legislation designed to impose a seven-day opioid prescribing limit.  This exception would allow Orthopaedic surgeons to maintain greater flexibility in patient care and facilitate greater convenience for our patients.

Also related to opioid abuse, PAOrtho applied for and received a $250,000 opioid education state grant. These funds will be used in various educational endeavors, including an Opioid Symposium at the November CME meeting in Philadelphia.

What’s next?
All in all, 2019’s first half was a tremendously successful legislative session for PAOrtho members. But we are not done.  In the fall legislative session, we will pursue prior authorization reform, a favorable Mcare coverage limits determination from Governor Wolf, and other initiatives to protect your patients and to improve your practice. 

Please get engaged and be active in our advocacy and scientific events. Thank you for your continued support of PAOrtho. 

Asif Ilyas, MD