House committee removes senate amendments on Telehealth bill

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Alaska House received the bill over the weekend that Governor Mike Dunleavy introduced to help address staffing concerns at medical facilities, and after the senate added vaccine related provisions, a committee in the state house moved to reverse those changes.

    The bill intends to help address staffing concerns and aims to allow Telehealth workers meet with patients online and write prescriptions without an in-person exam, as well as waiving background checks for newly hired medical workers.

    The senate voted to add vaccine-related provisions like COVID-19 antibody tests in place of a vaccination card, and allowing health workers to object to the administration of the vaccine on religious, medical or philosophical grounds.

    During the House Health and Social Services committee meeting, President and CEO Alaska State Hospital and Nursing home Association, Jared Kosin, was asked by Anchorage Representative Zack Fields about the "anti vaccination amendments" that were adopted in the Senate.

    Kosin said the organization does not support the amendments that were added because they undermine the ability to promote mitigation measures, but addressed it from a cost stand point.

    "Last week, and even two weeks prior to that, the federal administration put forward notice of intent to make rules requiring all Medicare and Medicaid certified health care facilities to be compliant with all their employees being vaccinated. And so somehow, the amendments that are in 3006, were to force our employers our health care facilities to somehow go against federal law - which we would argue federal law would supersede it but - even if it were to create that question, it would force us not be in compliance with federal law, we would lose all of our Medicare and Medicaid funding, and that would shut down every healthcare entity in the state."

    Wasilla Representative Christopher Kurka asked Kosin about tens of thousands of health professionals leaving the industry because they're being forced to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

    "The statement that it's your understanding that 10s of 1000s of healthcare workers are leaving the market due to mandated vaccines is not correct, from every piece of information I've ever been shown, especially in Alaska," Kosin said. "We at the association are not collecting that as a data point, we are talking to the hospital leaders, as well as nursing home leaders, as these vaccines, programs, and protocols are being implemented to ask about the effect on the workforce and to date, we have not received any meaningful concerns about a significant exodus of staff."

    The committee voted 4-3 to change the bill back to it's original form, striking out the vaccine related provisions from the senate and reverting the bill back to how it was originally introduced.

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