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Tort Reform on the Agenda–Legislative Changes Bring New Opportunity for Health Care-Related Issues

A new look to the Kentucky House of Representatives offers new opportunities for legislation important to physicians in the 2017 session of the Kentucky General Assembly, which convenes Tuesday, Jan. 3, and continues for 30 legislative days.

Republicans gained control of the House for the first time in nearly 100 years; they now have a 64-36 supermajority advantage to match the supermajority Republicans have held in the Senate for many years. Early indications suggest the Republicans will attempt to capitalize on their control of the Governor’s Office and both chambers of the legislature to pursue an aggressive legislative agenda, one that is likely to produce very spirited discussion and debate on a variety of issues, including some related to health care.

KMA has established a set of priorities that emphasize improved public health, increased patient safety and a fairer legal system for health care providers.

Tort Reform: KMA has long supported efforts to improve Kentucky’s medical liability climate. During the 2017 legislative session, tort reform will continue to be a top priority as KMA and other stakeholders, such as the Kentucky Hospital Association and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, advocate for common sense medical liability and lawsuit reform that will create a more fair and consistent climate for providers.

Smoking Cessation: Kentucky still has one of the nation’s highest smoking rates and, as a result, the state spends $1.92 billion annually in smoking-related health care expenditures. KMA will continue to take a leading role in addressing this serious public health issue. Specifically, KMA will support legislation designed to ensure comprehensive smoking cessation coverage for both the private insurance and Medicaid populations that is free of any barriers to patient access.

Domestic Violence Reporting: Domestic and dating violence remains an issue in Kentucky. Kentucky’s mandatory reporting law requires any person, including physicians, who knows of or suspects spouse abuse to report such information to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.  Unfortunately, the law has not been as effective as originally intended when it was passed in 1978. To more effectively deal with abuse reporting, the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence will propose legislation in 2017 that will amend the law.

Instead of reporting to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, physicians would simply provide victims with easily accessible referral information for the regional domestic violence programs or rape crisis centers. In addition, any physician who provides a referral would document the injuries in the patient’s medical record. The goal of this legislation is to identify victims of domestic and dating violence, link those victims to services, and provide protective services for those who choose to accept them. KMA considers this initiative to be a top priority and will support its passage in the upcoming legislative session.

KMA experienced one of its best legislative sessions in years in 2016. Four major priorities, dealing with issues ranging from maintenance of certification to fair contracting, were adopted by the General Assembly. KMA was able to meet these legislative objectives by maintaining a focus on issues important to physicians and by seeking greater involvement from the Association’s greatest asset–its members. Members responded by engaging their legislators through phone calls, emails and in-person visits. This type of membership-driven grassroots advocacy can and does play a critical role in the success of the Association’s legislative agenda.

“Success breeds success” is a term used in the Spring Issue of the Communicator to express hope in what can be accomplished in the 2017 legislative session. Despite the success of 2016 and the momentum that was established, membership involvement will once again prove to be a key component of KMA’s advocacy efforts.

KMA is here to assist. The Association has developed advocacy toolkits to support

its three legislative priorities. The toolkits include one-page issue summaries, talking points, recommended steps for legislator meetings and other advocacy tips. Members can download these materials from the KMA website ( and are urged to contact their legislators to advance these very important issues.

KMA looks forward to representing you in what is expected to be a lively legislative cycle and thanks you in advance for your participation in the Association’s advocacy efforts.

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Register to attend KMA Physicians’ Day at the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 22.

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