News: Quick Takes

House overwhelmingly passes health care licensing, tech bills

CJ file photo
CJ file photo

The House has unanimously passed legislation to add North Carolina to a compact of states that would share psychological services in short supply.

House Bill 297 would create a Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact allowing licensed psychologists in one state to practice telepsychology across state lines, and to practice temporary face-to-face psychology across state boundaries for 30 days within a calendar year. The House voted 109-0 Wednesday, March 27, to approve the bill, and sent it to the Senate.

The compact is a priority of the Department of Defense because it helps military spouses with psychology degrees open practices.

A compact needs seven member states to function. North Carolina would be the eighth. But Illinois will not become active until 2020. If H.B. 297 becomes law, the compact would open Oct. 1.

The legislation mirrors a component of Senate Bill 361, The Health Care Expansion Act of 2019. That omnibus health-care legislation was introduced in the Senate on Tuesday and referred to the Senate Rules Committee.

North Carolina already participates in two multistate arrangements: The Interstate Nurse Licensure Compact, and Physical Therapy Licensure Compact.

Bill sponsors say H.B. 297 would enhance the state’s ability to protect public health and safety while encouraging cooperation among PSYPACT states. The compact states could hold psychologists accountable by exchanging information about licensure, adverse actions involving legal or regulatory violations, and disciplinary history.

To be licensed, a psychologist must hold a graduate degree in psychology from an institution meeting 10 criteria, and have no adverse actions or criminal history.

In other action, the House voted 109-1 to pass House Bill 70, delaying some entities from entering the N.C. Health Information Exchange Network.

NC HealthConnex, as the network is called, would be a central collection point for patients’ electronic health records and is designed to improve patient health outcomes. State Department of Health and Human Services officials told lawmakers last year about 90 percent of hospitals and 87 percent of county health departments were already connected to the system.

However, Rep. Josh Dobson, R-McDowell, said some health-care providers cited several reasons they couldn’t meet this year’s June 1 connection deadline.

Psychiatrists would be exempt until 2021 because of unusual challenges. State health facilities don’t have an electronic records system, mostly because it would cost the state $200 million to create one. The bill requires them to begin submitting data a year after they install an electronic records system.

The bill would make connection voluntary for entities such as durable medical equipment suppliers, personal care, hospice, respite care, and others.