The 2017 legislative session adjourned sine die in the early morning hours of April 22, completing its work on the biennial budget one week ahead of schedule.
The 2017 legislative session was productive for the Indiana Hospital Association and its members on many fronts, including renewal of the hospital assessment fee until 2019, expansion of the telemedicine statute and legislation addressing the state’s opioid epidemic. In addition, IHA was successful in fighting off various costly and burdensome regulations proposed earlier in the session. We thank our members who took the time to advocate with their legislators for policies that strengthen hospitals and protect patients.
The 2017 legislative session will be known as the “roads infrastructure” session with the Republican super-majorities coming together to pass an increase in the fuel tax and new vehicle registration fees. Negotiations regarding the roads legislation continued until the final days of the session. The roads package will raise slightly over $900 million over the next seven years for state and local road projects. The bill also granted the state the authority to seek federal permission to toll existing interstate highways.
Early in the session, IHA and the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana worked with Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer (R-Beech Grove) to introduce House Bill 1578, which contained four provisions tackling tobacco use in Indiana. Those four provisions included raising the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack, restoring funding for tobacco cessation and prevention, raising the age of purchase for all tobacco-related products from 18 to 21 years of age and repealing preferential treatment for smokers in Indiana labor law.
While HB 1578 did not move forward, IHA, its members and public health stakeholders were successful in achieving an increase of $5 million over the biennium in the state budget for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. In addition, the Alliance is working to have the issue of raising the age of purchase for tobacco products studied during the interim study committee process.
While the House of Representatives included a $1 increase in the cigarette tax in their version of the roads plan, the Senate version of the roads package prevailed as it relates to the issue of the cigarette tax increase with no cigarette tax increase needed to augment the state general fund. Senate Republicans say they prefer to use the cigarette tax increase if and when Congress has acted on health care at the federal level.
Finally, the repeal of preferential treatment for smokers in Indiana labor law made it farther through the legislative process than ever before. The repeal passed the House of Representatives but did not receive a hearing in the Senate. Members of the Alliance will continue to educate legislators on how preferential treatment for smokers limits employer flexibility in managing their health care costs and ability to help their employees quit this addiction.
In total, the 2017 legislative session saw 1,245 bills introduced. Of these bills, 271 prevailed and are on their way to the governor for his signature into law. Over the coming months, IHA’s legislative team will continue working on issues related to prior authorization, surprise billing, transparency and possible study of uniform assessment of nonprofit entities.
For more details, read IHA’s full 2017 Indiana Legislative Session Report.