In Our Community

Assemblyman Moriarty Introduces Legislation To Stop Students From Performing Pelvic Exams On Unconscious Patients Without Consent

New Jersey Legislators are concerned about a controversial practice in teaching hospitals throughout the country. During medical school, students may be instructed to perform pelvic-exams on unconscious patients, at times without permission. After being alerted to this practice, Assemblyman Moriarty introduced Assembly Bill 5582 to ban it in New Jersey hospitals.

According to a Wiley Bioethics Journal article by Phoebe Friesen, students perform many of these pelvic examinations during completely unrelated procedures such as stomach surgery. The principal goal of such exams is to further medical students’ education and not to provide care for the patient.

While it is unclear how widespread the practice is, due to a lack of studies, a 2005 survey at the University of Oklahoma found that a large majority of students gave pelvic-exams to unconscious patients, nearly three-quarters of whom had done so without consent. In addition to pelvic-exams, teaching hospitals may also be instructing medical students to perform prostate-exams and various other less invasive examinations on unconscious patients.

Although Harvard and various other top teaching hospitals have reportedly stopped the practice, it remains legal in forty-two states, including New Jersey. In other words, throughout most of the country, patients could be unknowingly examined by medical students during unrelated procedures.

The Assemblyman’s bill would require that a patient must verbally and in writing consent to be examined for educational purposes. Additionally, all other examinations must be consented to in writing before being performed. The bill would allow for examinations without prior consent in the event of an emergency.

The bill is currently in the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee, following approval, the bill would move to the General Assembly for a vote.

Throughout Assemblyman Moriarty’s tenure in the General Assembly, he has fought for a health care system that serves patients first. This legislation joins his past efforts to regulate prescription drug prices and prevent conflicts of interests on hospital boards in New Jersey.

Senator Madden Introduces Bill To Help Combat Opioid Crisis

Senator Madden introduced a pair of bills in June that would improve patient access to safer pain medication. Specifically, the bills, S4007 and S4051, would require Medicaid coverage and health benefits coverage for buprenorphine and buprenorphine/naloxone without step therapy or fail-first protocols for pain management patients.

Health benefits plans sometimes employ what is known as a fail-first protocol before covering a doctor-prescribed medication. A fail-first protocol will require a patient to try and fail one or more drugs on an approved list before a doctor’s original prescription would be covered. There are some circumstances under which this might be appropriate, including when there are generic options of medications available to treat a certain ailment, all with minimal side effects.

However, in the case of pain management, patients suffering from chronic pain are often required to use highly addictive medications that are easily tampered with, such as Oxycontin, as part of a fail-first protocol. Buprenorphine drugs are slower-acting narcotics and are not as susceptible to tampering as other opioid medications. That is to say, it is more difficult to transform these drugs into a fast-acting form that could be misused and abused.

According to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, over the past six years, Gloucester County has had an average of 90 people die as a result of overdose. Camden County has lost an average of over 220 people per year over the same timeframe. Although the state has taken steps to combat the opioid crisis, it is clear that there is still much more to do. Access to addictive prescription medications has long been cited as a contributing factor to the crisis.

Of course, any opioid medication has the potential to be misused. However, Senator Madden hopes that by restricting access to fast-acting opioids in favor of slow-acting, tamper-resistant opioids, public access to dangerous, highly addictive medications will be greatly reduced.


New Law To Strengthen Equal Pay Protections For New Jersey Workers

Aiming to close the significant wage gap between women and men, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrat Paul Moriarty to prohibit employers from requiring job applicants to disclose their salary history in the application process was signed into law Thursday by Acting Governor Sheila Oliver.

The new law (formerly bill A-1094) prohibits employers from screening a job applicant based on his or her salary history, including prior wages, salaries or benefits. It also makes it unlawful for an employer to require an applicant’s salary history to satisfy any minimum or maximum criteria.

Under the law, an employer may still consider salary history in determining salary, benefits and other compensation for the applicant, and may verify the applicant’s salary history, if an applicant voluntarily, without coercion, provides the employer with that history. An applicant’s refusal to volunteer compensation information will not be considered in any employment decisions.

“We’ve made great strides to ensure pay equity in New Jersey,” said Moriarty (D-Camden, Gloucester). “With the passage of this law, we are another step closer to securing workers’ rights to equal pay for equal work for generations to come.”

Additionally, an employer who violates the law’s provisions would be liable for a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $1,000 for the first violation, $5,000 for the second, and $10,000 for each subsequent violation. Punitive damages, a standard remedy for violations under the Law Against Discrimination, would not be available for violations falling under this bill.

The measure passed the full Assembly in March by a vote of 53-24, and the Senate in June by a vote of 26-9.

New Law Designates “Alice Paul Day” In New Jersey To Honor Feminist Icon

To honor prominent women’s rights advocate Alice Paul and her integral role in the women’s suffrage movement, a measure sponsored by Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera to designate January 11 of each year as “Alice Paul Day” in New Jersey was recently signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy.

Born in Mount Laurel, Burlington County – also Murphy’s hometown – Alice Paul was a relentless advocate for the women’s suffrage movement during the 1910s. She founded the National Women’s Party with the goal of establishing a national suffrage amendment to give women the right to vote. While protesting outside of the White House, Alice Paul and other suffragists were arrested and imprisoned. She was brutally beaten and forced to live in cold, unsanitary, rat-infested conditions. When word of her mistreatment spread, the public demanded that she and the other imprisoned suffragists be released. The incident raised awareness and support for the women’s suffrage movement, eventually leading to the ratification of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote.

“It’s because of leaders like Alice Paul that women across the country are able to cast their ballots on Election Day,” said Mosquera. “Women today have a voice because Alice Paul so fiercely raised her own. It’s so important that we continue to honor her legacy, and never forget the gifts she gave to all women.”

After the 19th amendment was passed, Paul didn’t stop there. She went on to earn three law degrees and fought for women’s rights across the globe. She led a coalition that was successful in adding a sexual discrimination clause to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. She pushed to advance the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would guarantee equal rights under the law regardless of sex. In 1943, the ERA was rewritten and dubbed the “Alice Paul Amendment.” Though the amendment was never ratified – it fell short of support by three states – advocates continue to fight for its passage to this day.

Paul continued to champion women’s rights until she died in 1977 in Moorestown, Burlington County.

“At her core, Alice Paul truly believed all people were equal, and she never stopped working to make sure all people were treated equally under the law and in our culture,” said Pinkin. “Her tireless advocacy deserves to be recognized and remembered. I look forward to paying her tribute on ‘Alice Paul Day’ for years to come.”

The measure passed the Assembly in December, 79-0, and the Senate in May, 38-0.

Assemblywoman Mosquera: Quality, Affordable Childcare Must Be Available For New Jersey Families

As a mother, I understand on a personal level just how important it is for parents to know their child will be well taken care of. The peace of mind that comes with knowing your child is in good hands helps ease the anxieties of separation.

While many parents would love to be there every step of the way during their child’s formative years, many must work to provide for their families. In 2015, 65 percent of American children under the age of 6 had all available parents in the workforce, according to the Kids Count Data Center.

That is where childcare and early childhood education centers come into play. A 2013 Census report found that 23.5 percent of American children under the age of 5 are in some type of organized care facility.

A well-trained, adequately funded and sufficiently staffed center can offer a safe environment that provides children with the supervision, education and socialization they need.

The Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development states that quality childcare is related to better cognitive and social development of all children. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine explains, what happens during the first few years of a child’s life “sets either a sturdy or fragile stage for what follows.”

This is why improving the quality of childcare in New Jersey is so important. Our children and their futures depend on it.

In the fall, I will propose a three-bill legislative package aiming to raise the standards of childcare in licensed centers, encourage centers to work together to provide certain services and increase access to childcare for more families in the state.

Providing tax credits to highly-rated childcare centers would encourage them to maintain their standards while incentivizing others to make child welfare their top priority.

One of the bills would allow licensed childcare centers that receive three, four or five stars from the standardized rating system, Grow NJ Kids, to be awarded a tax credit in an amount contingent on their rating.

Another bill would allow licensed childcare centers to share certain services. By combining human resources, IT, maintenance and more, these organizations would be able to streamline their efficiency and reduce costs over time. The additional money saved can be used to bolster services and childcare.

However, these improvements won’t matter unless parents have access to those quality childcare centers.

According to a 2015 Economic Policy Institute issue brief, the cost of childcare exceeds the cost of rent for most two-child families. Childcare is one of the biggest expenses in a family’s budget and is especially unaffordable for minimum-wage workers.

Issues with childcare accessibility force millions of parents every year to make career sacrifices such as quitting their jobs, according to the Center for American Progress.

The third bill I will propose will help more families afford the childcare they so desperately need.

It would modify the eligibility criteria for state-subsidized childcare assistance, so that a family’s income can be 300 percent (or less) of the federal poverty level as opposed to the current 250 percent. That would mean a family of four would now be able to make up to $77,250 per year as opposed to around $64,400 to be eligible for assistance.

Furthermore, the bill would ease the transition for families who no longer qualify for this assistance. Rather than the usual ‘cliff effect’ — where a family has financial aid one day and absolutely none the next — families would receive 50 percent of their previous childcare subsidy for the next 90 days. This would help them adjust to their new childcare expenditures, especially if they only make slightly over the income limit.

It is evident the quality and affordability of childcare must be improved for families throughout our state, and I truly believe taking these steps will help make that possible.

My efforts will not stop here. I will continue to work in Trenton on improving the safety and well-being of our children while increasing access to the tools parents need to ensure their children attain the prosperous and successful lives they deserve.

Bill Entering New Jersey Into Multi-State Licensing Agreement For Nurses Signed Into Law

Legislation entering New Jersey into the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC) will allow licensed New Jersey nurses to practice in any state that has also entered into this agreement. The bill (A-1597), sponsored by Assembly Democrat Paul Moriarty was signed into law Friday.

Prior to this licensure agreement, nurses had to obtain a license from each state in which they intended to practice nursing. This process involved applications, fees and possibly even testing that could make it more complicated for nurses to relocate or treat patients in other states.

The eNLC requires each participating state to use the same set of standards for licensure so that a nurse from one state will have the necessary qualifications to practice in any of the 33 other states that are a part of the compact.

“It’s now easier than ever for our state to promptly provide nurses with employment when they move here,” said Moriarty (D-Camden, Gloucester). “This helps make New Jersey more appealing to talented professionals throughout the country and ensures that none of their services go to waste upon their arrival.”

The compact not only makes it easier for nurses to move to other locations, but also allows them to partake in the remote treatment of patients in other states via telemedicine, while still practicing nursing in their home state.

Under the eNLC, each state has a representative on an interstate commission that handles the implementation, administration, and regulation of the compact. Each state also has access to a database of any investigations or penalties against nurses in order to monitor their status and suspend or revoke licenses as necessary.