North Carolina House and Senate conferees continued their negotiations this week on a final budget in hopes of reaching agreement on a spending plan in time to adjourn by the July 4 holiday.
Several issues of note to North Carolina Medical Society (NCMS) members also were raised, namely reform of the state’s Certificate of Need (CON) law and a standing order for the opioid antagonist naloxone.
The Senate Health Care Committee briefly debated House Bill 161, which would eliminate the state’s CON system in five years.   No vote was taken in committee and it remains unclear whether HB 161 will be taken up again this short session. Reform of the CON laws has generated much dialogue within the NCMS community both for and against changing the system. Discussions among various medical specialties represented within the NCMS and the NCMS Board of Directors are ongoing in an attempt to reach consensus on the Society’s stance on CON reform.
Another provision likely to pass before the end of the week would authorize the State Health Director to issue a statewide, standing order for the opioid-antagonist naloxone. There is strong bipartisan support for making this drug readily available to help stem the opioid overdose epidemic plaguing the state and country. The standing order would allow pharmacies to dispense naloxone without a prescription.
State Health Director Randall Williams, MD, told the Senate Health Committee at a hearing in May that estimates show 500 to 1,000 people who died of prescription opioid overdoses last year potentially could have been saved had naloxone been more readily available.
Watch the Bulletin and NCMS website for updates on these issues and other legislative news in the days ahead.