A quieter week inTrenton this week saw the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee advance two measures and the Assembly Higher Education Committee receive testimony on issues related to the guidelines developed by the CDC and the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education for reopening institutions of higher education in the 2020-2021 academic year.
A-4295 would delay the physical examination requirement for student-athletes who participate in school-sponsored athletic activities during the fall athletic season of the 2020-2021 school year. This bill was introduced in the Upper House (S-2518) in response to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the state’s health care system. This bill would permit a student-athlete who has not completed a physical examination within 365 days prior to the first day of official practice in the athletic season, as required under current law, to participate in a school-sponsored interscholastic or intramural athletic team or squad during that athletic season, provided that the student-athlete completes the physical examination before the end of the athletic season. The bill would also require the NJ Department of Education to prepare an updated health history update questionnaire, which in addition to the information required under current statute, will include questions about the student-athlete’s exposure to or contact with COVID-19. If the student-athlete answers in the affirmative to any question included in the health history update questionnaire, then the student-athlete may not participate on the school-sponsored interscholastic or intramural athletic team or squad until he or she is further evaluated by the school physician, or if a school physician is not available, any other licensed physician. S-2518 has already passed the full Senate by a unanimous vote of (37-0). NJPSA partnered with other interested stakeholders and successfully worked with the Senate sponsors to achieve a number of significant improvements to the bill. On Thursday, the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee further amended the bill to include language in Section 1, paragraph a: “[a]nd the parent or guardian of the student athlete provides proof before the first day of the official practice of the athletic season that the physical examination is scheduled.” After a lengthy conversation and many Assemblymembers expressing grave concerns about the bill, it was ultimately advanced by the committee with only one abstention. This bill can now be considered by the full General Assembly.
To promote accessibility to mental health screening for adolescents, the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee unanimously cleared legislation (A-3548) on Thursday that would require health insurers to cover, at no cost to the patient, the expense of depression screenings for children from 12 to 18 years of age. The bill would apply to hospital, medical, and health service corporations; commercial, individual, small employer, and larger group insurers; health maintenance organizations; and the State Health Benefits Program and the School Employees’ Health Benefits Program. Coverage may not be denied solely on the basis that the screening is provided in conjunction with any other health care evaluation, treatment, or service. The bill provides that the benefits are to be provided to the same extent as for any other condition under the contract or policy, except that the insurer may not impose on covered persons receiving these services any form of cost sharing, including, but not limited to, copayments, deductibles, or coinsurance. Depression is associated with higher levels of stress and anxiety and can affect an adolescent’s personal, school, work, social, and family life, leading to social isolation and other problems. Early diagnosis is essential to the effective treatment of depression in young people. Upon the passage by the committee, the bill’s sponsor Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt issued the following statement: “We must treat mental health care in the same fashion that we do for physical health and place a strong focus on preventative care. Mental health disorders are treatable, but it is important that we identify the problem before a person is in crisis. Given the prevalence of mental health issues among today’s youth, we must take action to ensure adolescents struggling with their mental health are able to get the help they need.” NJPSA supported this measure. It has now been referenced for consideration by the full General Assembly. It awaits a hearing by the full Senate.
Your NJPSA Government Relations team will continue to track, monitor and weigh in on all of the bills that impact you, your students, staff and buildings. If you have any questions about any of the bills considered this week, or any others, please do not hesitate to contact Director of Government Relations Debbie Bradley @ firstname.lastname@example.org and/or Assistant Director of Government Relations Jennie Lamon @ email@example.com at any time.