The Idaho Legislature's Health Care Task Force heard presentations recently on three prospective bills, all of which will likely be formally introduced during the 2014 legislative session.
“The fact that we have put these on (the) agenda does not mean that we either support them or oppose them," explained Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, co-chair of the task force, which is comprised of both members of the Senate and House of Representatives. "They are simply here for your review."
One of the proposed bills would provide for the stocking and the administration of epinephrine to students in Idaho's public K-12 schools. It would allow the substance to be administered in the event of a student suffering with food allergy-based respiratory problems. Epinephrine, a natural human hormone that regulates blood vessel, air passage and pulmonary functioning, is used as a stabilizer for those whose food allergies result in breathing difficulties.
"Epinephrine is the first line of treatment for such allergic reactions and has proven to be lifesaving," testified Starla Higdon, a pharmacist and executive director of the Treasure Valley Food Allergy Network, as she presented the proposed bill. Under it, Idaho public schools could participate in federally funded programs that allow public schools to stock up on "Epi-Pens," the injector devices that store epinephrine and are used in administering dosages of the hormone. The bill would also allow school nurses, as well as some nonmedical personnel at schools, to administer the treatment.
"Why is this drafted in such a way that would allow administering without parental permission?" asked Rep. Brandon Hixon, R-Caldwell, a task force member.
"Because the onset of anaphylaxis (a common form of an allergy based respiratory attack) is often so fast there is not time to seek parental approval," Higdon replied.
Cameron added that he has a granddaughter who lives with severe food allergies, and that he is familiar with the sudden and dramatic respiratory attacks that food allergy sufferers frequently endure.
Another proposed bill, presented to task force members by Ken McClure and his daughter, Emily McClure, would increase the penalty for those convicted of battery against a health care worker or social worker. "It's not OK to beat up nurses, it's not OK to assault health care workers," Ken McClure stated.
Emily McClure presented statistics that she said were demonstrating an uptick in violence perpetrated against health care works.
In response, Sen. John Tippets, R-Montpelier, asked: "If the law is not providing an adequate deterrent, then that is true for all cases of battery. Why do you seek to single out one sector of the population over others?"
"Health care workers are in a unique position in that they are required by law to treat people," Emily McClure replied. "The evidence is there. Assaults against health care workers are increasing."
The third bill presented to the task force would seek to expand Idaho's requirement for what is known as "risk-based capital" that is imposed on insurance companies operating within the state. "Currently, to set up an insurance company in Idaho, a company has to have $2 million in capital," said Tom Donovan, deputy director for the Idaho Department of Insurance. The proposed bill would expand this capital requirement to apply to what Donovan described as "fraternal benefits societies."
"What precisely is a fraternal benefits society?" asked Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow.
Donovan replied that existing state law already defines fraternal benefits societies, but then described them as "collective organizations, often of a religious nature, that provide some types of benefits to their members." Donovan cited the Knights of Columbus and various Lutheran social care groups as examples of fraternal benefits societies.
"Do you think it would be helpful to put that description in your bill?" Schmidt asked.
Donovan reiterated that existing state law provides a legal definition of such organizations, but also that Schmidt's suggestion was valid.
All three of the bills are expected to be introduced formally in the coming 2014 legislative session.