With the end of the 2016 Maryland legislative session and the completion of bill signings by Governor Lawrence J. Hogan, Jr., PK Law highlights several bills of interest to our readers:
HB 185: One of the few pieces of “bipartisan” (sponsored by 7 Democrats and 6 Republicans) legislation to reach the Governor’s desk and signed by him on April 12, 2016, the Act (Chapter 99 of the Laws of Maryland) amends Health Occupations Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, §14-316 stating that the State Board of Physicians may not impose a continuing education requirement on every person licensed by the Board that they “…complete a specific course or program as a condition to the renewal of a license…”. Evidently, the Act was in response to a requirement imposed in the 2015 licensure renewal cycle for physicians and physician assistants that they complete a continuing education course on prescribing opioids, most likely in response to public and professional outcry over the over-prescribing of opioid medications.
HB 523: Most readers probably believe that the theft of an E-Z Pass transponder automatically means that they are not responsible for charges to their account(s). Not so, but the Maryland legislature fixed that issue, at least as far as E-Z Pass account holders not being responsible for certain charges, properly reported. With only one sponsor, this Bill was signed into law by Governor Hogan also on April 12, 2016 (Chapter 107 of the Laws of Maryland). The Act adds to the Transportation Article, Maryland Annotated Code, §21-1416 which provides, in summary:
- A holder of an E-Z Pass account may report a transponder theft to a local law enforcement agency and the Maryland Transportation Authority (“MTA”) “…within 2 weeks of the first account statement after the theft…”; and
- Identify and report unauthorized charges to the MTA.
- If so reported, the account holder is not responsible for unauthorized charges incurred prior to the date of notification if the MTA identifies the person who used the transponder and collects the proper toll charges from the unauthorized user.
- If so reported, those charges incurred by the unauthorized user after the date of reporting will not be charged to the account holder’s account.
The moral of HB 523 is that if your E-Z Pass transponder is stolen the account holder should immediately report the theft to local law enforcement and the MTA in order to be protected from unauthorized charges incurred after the date of reporting.
HB 718: Another piece of somewhat “bipartisan” legislation (34 Democrats and 9 Republicans), which both the Maryland House and Senate unanimously passed and sent it to Governor Hogan is HB 718. He approved it on April 12, 2016 (Chapter 114 of the Laws of Maryland). The Act authorizes the Division of Consumer Protection of the Office of the Attorney General (“OAG”) to bring a civil action against a person who takes advantage of a “vulnerable adult”. Section 8-101 of the Criminal Law Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, provides it is a crime to knowingly and willfully obtain the property of a person whom a person knows, or reasonably should know, is a “vulnerable adult” with the intent to deprive them of same. The same rule applies to those who are not “vulnerable adults” but who have attained at least 68 years of age. (Which apparently assumes, one might observe, that the legislators believe 68 year-olds are automatically vulnerable?) Heretofore, there was no civil remedy for such acts, only criminal, backed by state enforcement. With this Act, the OAG may bring an action on behalf of a victim or the victim’s estate; recover damages from the perpetrator; and recover the costs of the action. The Act points out that a criminal conviction is unnecessary in order to maintain the civil action. (Commercial Law Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, §13-204).
HB 752: In another unanimous vote, the legislators sent the Governor this Bill which was also signed into law on April 12 (Chapter 116 of the Laws of Maryland). As a piece of “emergency legislation”, the Act took effect on the date it was signed by the Governor. Prior to this Act, a person had to be licensed by the State Board of Pharmacy to dispense prescription drugs. However, a licensed physician could prepare and dispense his or her own prescriptions. Maryland permits the delegation of medical acts, including prescription of drugs, to a physician assistant pursuant to a “delegation agreement” filed with the State Board of Physicians. A nurse practitioner may also do so pursuant to regulations. This emergency bill clarifies that a licensed physician may personally prepare and dispense a prescription written by a physician assistant in accordance with an authorized delegation agreement or a prescription written by a certified nurse practitioner who works with the physician in the same office setting, if the physician otherwise complies with dispensing requirements. In other words, preparation and dispensing is no longer limited to a physician’s own prescriptions. The physician may do so based on the actions of a nurse practitioner or physician assistant.
SB 450: This Bill was signed into law, after unanimously passing in both the Senate and House of Delegates, by Governor Hogan on April 26, 2016 (Chapter 209 of the Laws of Maryland). Prior to the passage of the Act, Maryland law prohibits a professional liability insurer of a health care provider from including coverage of a defense of a disciplinary proceeding in the provider’s profession. However, such a policy could be offered on a “stand alone” basis. The Act resulted from a survey of health-care professional liability insurers in which 25 of 30 respondents felt that the coverage should be permitted under a single, consolidated policy for professional liability insurance. The legislature responded with an amendment to §19-104 of the Insurance Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland which permits a professional liability insurance policy for a health-care provider to include “coverage for the defense of a health care provider in a disciplinary hearing” arising out of the practice of her or his profession so long as the cost is itemized on the billing statement and the cost is reported to the Maryland Insurance Commissioner.
Other than HB 752, the Acts will become effective as of October 1, 2016.