The Lead

Wolf signs bill extending waivers for hundreds of state regulations

By: - September 30, 2021 11:37 am

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf speaking with the press. Governor Tom Wolf visited Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Cumberland County Friday, July 31, 2021 to highlight the importance of outdoor spaces to our well-being during the pandemic and announce a plan for Pennsylvania’s state parks of tomorrow (Commonwealth Media Services photo).

Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill Wednesday extending the suspension of hundreds of regulations that govern such issues as how unemployment compensation hearings are held and who is allowed to drive state vehicles. 

The regulatory waivers were set to expire Thursday, but the legislation unanimously passed the GOP-controlled General Assembly this week in time to reach Wolf’s desk.

The majority of the still-suspended regulations apply to the medical profession and occupational licensing rules. 

They range from small rules requiring board meetings or continuing professional education to be in person, to rules dictating staffing levels for ambulances and nursing homes, or giving more authority to certified nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

The regulations had been suspended by Wolf under the since-expired disaster declarations for COVID-19 and the opioid crisis.

“Following the expiration of the disaster declarations for the opioid epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m pleased that we were able to come together to keep these important public health measures working on behalf of Pennsylvanians,” Wolf said in a statement Thursday.

Further action on the regulations could be pending, as Republicans and their allies have argued rules suspended for the past year-and-a-half may not need to stay in place at all.

“We hope that lawmakers will work to ensure these regulatory suspensions are made permanent when this temporary measure ends,” Nathan Benefield, vice president of the Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative think tank, said in a statement Wednesday. “Regulations that restrict access to health care during a pandemic are harmful regulations at all times.” 

Some of the extended suspensions also encourage the use of tele-health services by waiving requirements for in-person medical care in certain settings.

Top Republican lawmakers have said that weeding through those regulations could be a starting point for passing a bill formalizing telemedicine in the state. 

Putting into law what services can be offered and who must pay for virtual medical services has been stymied by abortion opponents in recent years.

Embraced heavily during COVID-19, is telemedicine here to stay?

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.