Holcomb signs bills related to health care, distracted driving

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed 84 bills Wednesday, including some that aimed to tackle health care costs, distracted driving and regional development.

Several controversial pieces of legislation, like the bill that would overturn the recently passed tenant protection ordinances in Indianapolis, the bill that expands the definition of panhandling, and legislation that will prohibit Indiana utilities from shutting down coal-fired power plants before May 2021, have made it to Holcomb’s desk but have not been signed.

Holcomb has until March 25 to sign or veto those bills or allow them to become law without his signature.

Here is a summary of some of the bills he signed Wednesday:

Senate Bill 1: Raises the legal age to purchase and possess tobacco products from 18 to 21, which is significant for health advocates who have been pushing for years to make this change. It does not change any of the taxing structure for cigarettes or vaping materials, but it does increase the penalties retailers will face if they are caught selling to underaged consumers.

Senate Bill 5: Instructs the Indiana Department of Insurance to establish an all-payer claims database and requires hospitals, outpatient surgery centers and urgent care facilities to publish average prices of services to their websites. The database is expected to provide cost information for specific procedures by facility name and allow individuals to shop around for the best price. Insurance companies would have to submit the data to the state, but the state cannot require companies in self-funded insurance plans to provide information. Those companies would be strongly encouraged to do so, though.

Senate Bill 350: Sets up the framework for the Central Indiana Regional Development Authority, which is a step toward what local officials wanted. But it is designed to be a five-year pilot program and was not granted any taxing authority. The regional development group is allowed to pursue transit, economic development and trail and greenway projects, and it is required to prepare a strategic economic development plan.

House Bill 1004: Requires medical providers to get consent from patients five days before a procedure in order to charge them an out-of-network rate and requires noncompete agreements between hospitals and physicians to include an option for a physician to be released from the terms if employment has been terminated or if the contract has expired. Before the final passage of this bill, lawmakers removed language that would have addressed site-of-service billing, which would have regulated how hospitals charge for care that occurs at an office not on the main campus.

House Bill 1070: Prohibits Hoosiers from holding or using cell phones while driving motor vehicles and replaces the state’s existing texting-while-driving ban. The bill does not restrict a driver from using a phone that is mounted on the dashboard or placed somewhere else in the vehicle, so individuals will still be able to use phones for GPS services or to make calls through Bluetooth technology or on speaker phones.

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