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Get to Know State Legislation

 
The 112th Tennessee General Assembly adjourned on April 28. Read on to learn more about key legislation that affects community health centers.
 
The 112th Tennessee General Assembly concluded the second year of a two-year session last week after passing a $52B state budget. To learn more about the budget see our April 27 Get to Know the State Budget blog post. In addition to budget items, TPCA advocated for several pieces of legislation to increase access to care and support post-pandemic transformation for community health centers.  
 
Virtual Chart Review 
During the pandemic, various legislative and regulatory flexibilities halted in-person requirements or allowed them to be conducted virtually, including chart-reviews and site visits by supervising physicians. Prior to the pandemic, physicians supervising nurse practitioners and physician assistants were required to conduct chart reviews and on-site visits once per month. Conducting chart reviews and site visits virtually reduces the burden of time and travel for supervising physicians.  

TPCA supported legislation to allow for physicians supervising nurse practitioners and physician assistants to conduct chart reviews and site visits virtually after the COVID-19 pandemic: 
  • SB1810/HB1762 would have allowed physicians supervising nurse practitioners and physician assistants at community health centers to conduct chart reviews and site visits virtually. This legislation passed the House but did not come up for a vote before the Senate due to the passage of SB2511/HB2537.  
Telehealth
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption and expansion of telehealth, including at community health centers. According to the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), during the pandemic, 95% of health centers used telehealth for medical visits and 90% used telehealth for behavioral health visits.1 Health centers in Tennessee quickly expanded the use of telehealth to ensure they could provide high-quality care in a safe and convenient manner.  

TPCA supported two telehealth bills during the legislative session:  
  • SB1846/HB1843, signed into law as Public Chapter 807, effective April 8, 2022, requires reimbursement for audio-only medical visits in TennCare, the state's Medicaid program and the commercial market. During the pandemic, health centers increasingly relied on audio-only telehealth visits to care for patients who were experiencing homelessness, who did not have video-capable devices, or who were located in an area without access to broadband. 
Naloxone 
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, overdose deaths were rising across the country, including in Tennessee. The health, economic, and social and mental health effects of the pandemic exacerbated the opioid epidemic in Tennessee and across the country. Overdose deaths in Tennessee rose 45% from 2019 to 2020, the largest year-to- year increase.2  
 
Health centers experience the effects of the opioid epidemic on their patients and within their broader communities. Beyond core primary care services, community health centers provide integrated behavioral health and substance use treatment services. In 2020, health centers in Tennessee provided more than 253,000 behavioral health visits to 58,000 patients and more than 33,000 visits to provide substance use disorder services for 9,000 patients.3  
 
TPCA supported SB2572/HB2465 to increase access to Naloxone, a life-saving medication that is used to reverse opioid overdoses. The bill was signed into law as Public Chapter 749, effective July 1, 2022. The law allows community organizations, including community health centers to distribute Naloxone.  
 
 
 
[1]  National Associationof Community Health Centers. (2021).Telehealth and Health Centers During COVID-19. NACHC. Retrieved from https://www.nachc.org/research-and-data/research-fact-sheets-and-infographics/health-centers-and-audio-only-telehealth-during-covid-19/
[2]  Tennessee Department of Health Office of Informatics and Analytics. (2021).2020 Tennessee Drug Overdose Deaths. Retrieved from https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/health/documents/pdo/2020_Tennessee_Drug_Overdose_Deaths.pdf
[3]  Tennessee Health Center Program Uniform Data System (UDS) Data. (2022). Retrieved from https://data.hrsa.gov/tools/data-reporting/program-data/state/TN

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