State healthcare laws debuting in 2024

Several new laws are debuting this year in states across the U.S., including laws related to healthcare.

From gender-affirming care to staffing, here is a list of healthcare laws that have or are slated to take effect this year:

Note: This is not an exhaustive list.

1. West Virginia has enacted a bill banning gender-affirming care for minors. The bill, which Gov. Jim Justice signed in March, took effect Jan. 1. The law includes exceptions, such as allowing individuals under 18 years old to get treatment if they have parental consent and if two physicians have diagnosed them with severe gender dysphoria, according to The New York Times.

2. Louisiana also has a new law banning gender-affirming healthcare for transgender minors. The new law, which took effect Jan. 1, comes after state lawmakers passed House Bill 648 in summer 2023 and then overrode Gov. John Bel Edwards' veto, according to the Shreveport Times

3. Pennsylvania's new "Owen's Law" provides for medical assistance coverage for pasteurized donor human milk. More specifically, the law requires such coverage for medically prescribed pasteurized donor human milk in inpatient and outpatient settings for medically fragile infants under 12 months old, according to the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania. WHYY reported that the law is slated to take effect later in January.

4. In New Jersey, a new state law allows pharmacists to furnish self-administered hormonal contraceptives to patients without a prescription. Pharmacists will be able to dispense medication themselves, and New Jersey officials hope expanded access will begin sometime in spring 2024, according to WHYY.

5. California's minimum wage for healthcare workers is set to increase starting in 2024 under legislation signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom last October. Mr. Newsom is now seeking changes to the law, although it is unclear whether the changes will be related to the funding structure, scope of the law's applicability or its timeline. Currently, the law is set to increase the minimum wage for healthcare employees starting in June 2024. It will increase annually, ranging from $18 to $25 per hour. Healthcare facilities are expected to reach a $25 hourly minimum wage by June 1, 2028, or, for some in rural locations, 2033.

6. In Illinois, a new law requires hospitals to adopt a flu and pneumococcal immunization policy that includes procedures for identifying patients age 50 or older for flu immunization and 65 or older for pneumococcal immunization. The law took effect Jan. 1. 

7. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed staffing legislation into law in April aimed at addressing the healthcare worker shortage. The law requires hospitals to follow staffing standards. As part of the law, hospitals must establish staffing committees composed of nursing staff and administrators by Jan. 1, according to the Washington State Standard. The committees must approve annual staffing plans and submit them to state officials by 2025, the publication reported. If hospitals fall below 80 percent compliance with their staffing plans, they are required to report noncompliance to the state. The state departments of health and labor and industries would then assign noncompliant hospitals a corrective action plan. Under the law, hospitals that do not follow corrective action plans could face a fine of $50,000 per month.

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