Issue 02 | January 10, 2020
Lame Duck and Bad Faith
The Legislature is still hard at work towards completing the business of the lame duck session. The current legislative session will come to close at noon on January 14. The 219 th Session will begin immediately after with the swearing in of the newly elected members on January 14 at 12 noon.

Stay tuned for a full session wrap up report after next Tuesday. In the meantime, I will be busy in Trenton monitoring all of our key areas of concern. Hot topics for Monday include Mandatory Immunizations, Regulation of Vaping Businesses, and many others… 
 

“Bad Faith Bill” on Track to Reach Governor’s Desk

A landmark bill which could provide much needed assistance for patients and doctors may be headed to the Governor’s Desk by Monday. The “New Jersey Insurance Fair Conduct Act “S-2144/A-3850 sponsored by Senators Scutari and Gopal and Assemblywoman Quijano and Assemblyman Bramnick has already passed the Senate and is posted for an Assembly floor vote

The bill establishes a private cause of action for first-party claimants regarding certain unfair or unreasonable practices by their insurer.

First party claimants are defined as “ an individual, corporation, association, partnership or other legal entity” asserting an entitlement to benefits owed directly to or on behalf of an insured under an insurance policy.

"Insurer" means any individual, corporation, association, partnership or other legal entity which issues, executes, renews or delivers an insurance policy in this State, or which is responsible for determining claims made under the policy. 1 “Insurer” shall not include an insurance producer as defined in section 3 of P.L.2001, c.210 (C.17:22A-28) or a public entity.
 
"Public entity" means the State, any county, municipality, district, public authority, public agency and any other political subdivision or public body in the State, including a joint insurance fund of a public entity. 1


Under the provisions of the bill, a claimant may file a civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction against its insurer for:
    (1)  an unreasonable delay or unreasonable denial of a claim for payment of benefits under an insurance policy; or
    (2)  any violation of the provisions of section 4 of P.L.1947, c.379 (C.17:29B-4).

Section 4 of P.L.1947, c.379 (C.17:29B-4) defines certain activities as unfair methods of competition and unfair and deceptive acts or practices in the business of insurance including, among other things, misrepresentations and false advertising of policy contracts, false information and advertising generally, defamation, unfair discrimination, unfair claim settlement practices and failure to maintain complaint handling procedures.
  
The bill provides that, in any action filed pursuant to the bill, the claimant shall not be required to prove that the insurer’s actions were of such a frequency as to indicate a general business practice.

The bill also provides that, upon establishing that a violation of the provisions of the bill has occurred, the claimant shall be entitled to:
    (1)  actual damages caused by the violation;
    (2)  prejudgment interest, reasonable attorney’s fees, and all reasonable litigation expenses; and
    (3)  treble damages.

If this becomes law, physicians and patients will be able to sue insurance companies for the many hardships and inequities experienced daily. If the bill reaches the Governor’s desk, I will be urging everyone to call in support. Stay tuned for the complete results of the Lame Duck Session next week.
NJAOPS Listed as one of the Top Professional Association

In a Special Edition of one of New Jersey's most influential business publications, NJBIZ — NJAOPS received highly coveted recognition as on of the Top Professional Associations operating in the State of New Jersey.

This honor is certainly a testament to the involvement and prominence of our membership, as well as the quality and value of our programs and services. We are very pleased to have this validation, but acknowledge that if it were not for the support and efforts of our members, this distinction would not be possible.

Once again, we are reminded that it is our collective efforts that make a difference in this organization — and the leadership and staff at NJAOPS want to thank you again for your support and contributions to our mission.

To see the ranking and the entire list - please click here . Please note, this link is gated for subscribers, so it is not available without a NJBiz subscription.
New Jersey Department of Health Continues Efforts to Combat Overdose Epidemic

The Department of Health continues to implement initiatives to help reverse the tide of the opioid epidemic in the state.
 
“Eight lives are lost each day to the overdose epidemic in New Jersey,” said Acting Health Commissioner Judith M. Persichilli. “We are committed to linking all those in need to treatment and services by engaging healthcare providers, harm reduction centers, local health officials and emergency care providers in the fight to save lives.”
 
The Department of Health is expanding its “5 Minutes to Help” training course for Emergency Medical Services staff to improve connections to care for non-fatal overdose victims. This program has already trained 75 first responders so they can effectively provide patients with information on recovery resources.  Last week, the Department launched an online introduction course for EMS and law enforcement partners and will hold several in person trainings this year. First responders are on the front lines of this public health challenge, saving lives and serving as the first link to treatment and services. In 2019, EMS administered nearly 10,000 doses of naloxone.

The Department is also increasing access to naloxone. The Department’s Naloxone Standing Orders program allow pharmacists to dispense the opioid antidote without a prescription. In 2019, there was a 63 percent increase in participating pharmacists and a 30 percent increase in pharmacies.

To reduce dependence on opioids, the Department is working with hospital care providers to decrease opioid prescribing to treat chronic pain in emergency departments. Through the Opioid Reduction Option (ORO) program, 11 hospitals have enrolled in training. St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, which serves as a Gold Technical Partner, is sharing its best practices that have received national recognition in reducing opioid prescriptions in their emergency department. In 2019, 165 emergency department personnel were trained. This year, the Department, and its partner, the New Jersey Hospital Association, will hold another round of training to engage more hospitals in this effort. The goal of the ORO program is to ultimately reduce overall opioid prescribing in NJ’s emergency departments to 12 percent or less. 

New Jersey’s seven Harm Reduction Centers continue to play a critical role in addressing the overdose epidemic. The Department is expanding services at these centers to support the health of individuals in active use. In addition to access to new syringes, overdose prevention education, naloxone, and HIV and Hepatitis C testing, center staff provide outreach, counseling and care coordination. In 2019, more than 3,100 residents were served at these centers located in Asbury Park, Atlantic City, Camden, Jersey City, Newark, Paterson and Trenton.

The Department will continue to improve data collection and analysis to better understand the status of the epidemic and employ better informed strategies for prevention of use, and reduction of deaths and recidivism. In 2019, the NJ Overdose Data Dashboard added data on viral hepatitis and neonatal abstinence syndrome. The dashboard provides statistics on overdose deaths, crime, naloxone administration, prescription monitoring, drug related hospital visits, and other important data to understand the population health impacts of the epidemic.

To help further facilitate data exchange, the Department is supporting efforts by behavioral health providers to implement electronic health records and connection to other health care providers through the New Jersey Health Information Network (NJHIN). Historically, substance use disorder providers have not had access to the resources they needed to maintain modern health record systems, and this technology gap has limited their access to timely health information. More than 120 providers are interested in participating and 50 have signed contracts with vendors to begin the process of moving to or upgrading their electronic health records systems.

The Department is also focused on addressing the overdose epidemic through a health equity lens. The growing impact on communities of color and geographic disparities will be covered in a series of health equity forums this Spring, which will culminate in the Fall Population Health summit.

The Department’s work is being supported by both state and federal funding.
EARLY BIRD PRICING EXTENDED
TO JANUARY 31st!
Member pricing is $545,
Nonmember registration cost is $820
PLUS — A special offer for DO’s who have not been members since 2017:
take advantage of a special discounted price of $870 for AROC registration AND Full NJAOPS membership!
 
Registrations can be faxed to 732-940-8899; emailed to Pat McNamara at pmcnamara@njosteo.com or mailed to 666 Plainsboro Rd Suite 356 Plainsboro, NJ 08536
Back to the Boardwalk for 2020!
We are excited to be hosting our convention at the fabulous and exciting Hard Rock in Atlantic City ! Save the date for April 22-25 for the most relevant education and resources for the successful clinician. Our physicians will be able to earn over 32 AOA Category 1-A CME Credit, 29 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit ™ and AAFP Prescribed CME Credit. A new addition for this year - we will feature hands-on workshops on topics including interventional radiology, thyroid ultrasounds, Utilizing OMM in your busy practice and orthopedics.
Get In On Incredible Hotel Deals:
Included in Your Hotel Room Is:
  • High speed WiFi Internet Access
  • Twenty-Four Hour access to the Body Rock Fitness Center
  • Unlimited entry and exit in parking areas after initial feel has been paid
  • Chair and Towel services at the indoor pool or seasonal beach area

GROUP CODE: GOPS420
Or you can call the hotel directly at 609.449.1000 and use the same group code! 
Some of the Hot Topics in Medicine Covered at AROC 2020:  
  • The Measles Outbreak and What We Learned From the Epidemic 
  • Endocrinology Symposium to include topics on PCOS, Management of Type 2 Diabetes, Autoimmune Diseases and How to Manage Them, Current Devices on the Market for Type 2 Diabetes and How YOU Can Get Paid to Download and Manage Patients' Data 
  • VAPING: The Current Public Health Crisis 
  • Women's Health: Migraines, Menopausal Lipidology and LDL Risk Reduction in Women CME 

State Mandates for:
  • Pennsylvania: 14 Hours of Patient Safety and Risk Management Which Needs to be Fulfilled by October 31st, 2020 
  • Florida: 7 Hours of Continuing Medical Education Credits on Topics Including Human Sex Trafficking, Preventing Medical Errors and Florida Rules and Regulations 
  • HIPPA Compliancy 
  • End-of-Life: 2-Hour CME Lecture 
  • Alternatives to Opioids: NJ, PA and NY State Mandate
INVEST IN YOURSELF!
This year's AROC is the perfect opportunity to support your professional advancement, while also supporting NJAOPS! 

Your attendance at AROC 2020 is a win/win for everyone! Not only will you recieve great educational topics, extensive credit opportunities and business opportunities - but your attendance also helps to support and promote your association. We like to think of it as an investment opportunity for our members. When we prosper - so do you, and no one can serve your professional needs better in the State of New Jersey than NJAOPS!

Learn more about this year's program by clicking on the image to the right, or visiting www.aroc.org.  
Opioid Deaths Down in NJ, Governor Details New or Upgraded Anti-Addiction Efforts

Murphy and officials pledge expanded access to treatment in 2020 and free supplies of overdose antidote for police departments and libraries, among other initiatives

Providing local police and libraries with the opioid overdose reversal agent naloxone. A fresh outreach campaign, tied to a more effective treatment hotline. Another attempt to tax opiate manufacturers to help offset New Jersey’s costs in battling addiction.

These are among the concepts New Jersey officials have in place — or in mind — for 2020 as they continue to address the state’s opioid epidemic, according to Gov. Phil Murphy and members of his Cabinet who participated in a public meeting on addiction Wednesday.

While last year saw a 3% decline in the number of drug-related deaths in the state — the first decrease in nearly a decade — some 3,021 people still lost their life to illegal substances.

“There’s no celebration, let me say that upfront,” Murphy told administration officials, treatment providers, law enforcement and individuals in recovery who joined him at the Family Guidance Center, a nonprofit in Warren County that provides substance abuse and mental health services. “Each one of (these victims was) a blessed human being, each of them gone, each representing families around the state who will grieve their loss forevermore.”

Judith Persichilli, acting commissioner of the state Department of Health, added: “We need everyone to be cognizant that this is affecting families every day, with eight overdose deaths every day in New Jersey.”

Planning for $100M in upcoming budget
The governor and his team reviewed their efforts in 2019 and highlighted some of their plans for the year to come; Murphy noted he has included  $100 million  in each of the past two state budgets to address opioid addiction and would likely do so again next month when he introduces his spending plan for fiscal year 2021, which starts in July.

Murphy said ongoing and new programs will continue to build on four existing areas of focus: improving data collection, expanding access to effective treatment, investing in social programs to address the underlying causes of addiction, and continuing to diversify the work of law enforcement, which is no longer just about making arrests.
“We’re taking that public health approach to this crisis. We’re focusing on prevention. We’re focusing on treatment. And we’re focusing on enforcement as well,” state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said.

Among the initiatives on the administration’s agenda is a plan to distribute free naloxone, or Narcan, to municipal police departments and libraries, which — as public spaces — are now the site of overdoses and play an important role in New Jersey’s efforts to address addiction, officials note. Department of Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson said she and Grewal sent letters with this offer to police officials on Tuesday and by Wednesday morning 80 departments had contacted her to express interest.

In February, DHS plans to launch new public outreach for the state’s Reach NJ hotline, which has counselors available 24/7 to connect individuals with treatment. Officials said the $4 million campaign will include billboards, internet and cable commercials with messages developed through input from people in recovery and family members. One version includes a quote from the mother of an addict: “I hug him twice, in case it’s the last time.”

Renewed outreach
DHS had previously overhauled the  Reach NJ  system to make it more effective for callers seeking help. “What we found when we inherited the line was that people were having to go through multiple layers to get to actual help,” Johnson said, “so we redesigned the system so people can connect to a live counselor.”

The outreach campaign and other elements of the Murphy administration opioid response contrast with measures introduced under former Gov. Chris Christie, who focused significant attention on addiction and created the Reach NJ hotline. But Christie faced criticism for launching a costly  advertising campaign  that featured him prominently in promoting the hotline on TV.

Murphy also said that he has not abandoned an idea he first announced as part of his budget proposal last year, for the state to impose a  per-pill tax on companies that manufacture or distribute opioids ; the purpose would be to raise funds to offset the taxpayer tab for addiction and recovery services. That plan — which would have cost some companies as much as $5 million a year — was designed to raise $21.5 million annually but failed to attract legislative sponsors in either the Assembly or Senate.

“I want to go to the board rooms’ (of opioid makers) financially to ask for a per-pill charge that we would then take and help us defray some of the $100 million we spend in this arena,” Murphy said Wednesday.

By the numbers
The administration also released a wealth of opioid-related data from 2019, including:
  • 97: the number of fewer drug-related deaths recorded in 2019, versus 2018;
  • 6%: the percentage decline in opioid prescriptions in 2019; prescription numbers have fallen by double digits over the last few years thanks to changes in state law and federal guidelines, and growing awareness among doctors and patients of the potential dangers;
  • 33,200: the number of free naloxone doses DHS distributed to the public during a one-day, statewide effort in June, and to homeless shelters later in the summer;
  • 75: the number of emergency responders trained to date through the DOH’s 5 Minutes to Help initiative, designed to help them communicate with individuals who are experiencing an overdose and, hopefully, connect them with treatment;
  • 30%: the percentage increase in Garden State pharmacies that offer naloxone to the public without a prescription;
  • 11: the number of “heroin mills” destroyed in 2019 by State Police; four of these facilities were connected with 358 overdoses, 133 of which were fatal;
  • 80%: the percentage of heroin that included fentanyl, a more lethal synthetic opioid, based on samples submitted for testing by law enforcement;
  • 700: the number of nonviolent offenders charged with minor drug crimes and diverted into treatment or recovery programs, instead of jail, through the attorney general’s Operation Helping Hand initiative;
  • 26: the number of doctors, pharmacists or other professionals who faced the loss of their license in 2019 because of prescribing violations involving opioids;
  • 16,000; the number of student athletes and parents who watched a video the attorney general’s office created to help them understand the addiction potential of prescription opioids;
  • $7.8 million: grant funding made available in October to help county jails create or expand effective treatment programs; 20 of the 21 counties have accepted funds;
  • 2,516: the number of prisoners in state custody who are on medicated assisted treatment, considered the gold standard in addressing opioid addiction;
  • 953: the number of prisoners who have agreed to serve as peer navigators to help other addicts negotiate treatment and recovery behind bars; nearly half have been trained by experts at Rutgers University.

Dr. Jay Feldman, a first-year resident at AdventHealth, is in hot water with the hospital after writing questionable social media posts and endorsing several products, one of which is from a supplement company he’s involved with. This article illustrates a cautionary tale for health care professionals, especially new physicians in practice, on how to conduct responsible social media etiquette in the professional workplace. Please click here to access the article.