July 27, 2016
The state legislative 'short' session is winding down at the NC General Assembly, with the 2016-2017 state budget winning formal approval in both chambers during the last few days. The new budget contains a number of provisions of interest to Family Medicine, including items related to controlled substances, public health and GME. While this year's session presented relatively few major health proposals as compared to most recent sessions, the Academy's government affairs team continued to be active and engaged.
The most significant piece of health policy winning approval relates to NC's Controlled Substances Reporting System (NC-CSRS). Effective immediately, all prescribers must register with NC-CSRS within 30-days of obtaining an initial license or renewing any license that "confers the authority to prescribe a controlled substance." In addition, the legislature also approved funding for key NC-CSRS updates that will enable it to integrate with other states and with the NC Health Information Exchange. The new NC-CSRS registration requirement was actually a positive outcome. The NCAFP government affairs team worked hard behind the scenes to eliminate a Senate proposal that would have mandated all prescribing physicians to access the system prior to prescribing every controlled substance on any occasion, a new controlled substance or a refill. The mandate that passed only requires registration. The NCAFP urges members to go ahead and register and use your appropriate clinical judgment regarding how often you need to access the system.
The budget also contained several public health items and some state GME adjustments. The popular NC Quitline tobacco cessation service saw its funding get reduced, but comparable funding was provided to the "You Quit, Two Quit" cessation program that targets pregnant and postpartum women. The Healthy Corner Store Initiative that is designed to help eliminate the state's food deserts received funding as well, as did state prevention and detection efforts around Zika. For GME, the budget appropriated up to $7.7 million for up to 130 additional residency slots affiliated with Cape Fear Valley Medical Center (predicated on Cape Fear supplying its own private funds) and Campbell University. The budget also contained language suggesting statewide GME reform is gaining momentum with the statement, 'it is the intent of the General Assembly to explore all possible funding options to maintain or expand reimbursement for Graduate Medical Education.'