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[ATG] Zoeller thanks northeast Indiana legislators for bipartisan support of bills
Start Date: 3/20/2014Start Time: 12:00 AM
End Date: 3/20/2014
Entry Description

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – State lawmakers passed bills to counter the epidemic of prescription drug abuse, combat human trafficking, protect the telephone privacy of consumers and encourage prompt medical intervention for young people in certain emergencies, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said today.

Zoeller publicly thanked northeast Indiana legislators, including State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, R-Syracuse, Rep. Casey Cox, R-Fort Wayne, Sen. Joe Zakas, R-Granger, and Sen. Ryan Mishler, R-Bremen, for their support of consumer protection and public safety bills that passed during the Legislature’s 2014 session.

“Before session my office had recommended several proposals for new laws that would help improve the health and safety of Hoosiers by strengthening existing law and addressing some problems that plague consumers.  To their credit, legislators of both parties and both houses worked collaboratively to pass these bills,” Zoeller said.  The Attorney General thanked legislators for the following:


House Enrolled Act 1218, House Enrolled Act 1360 and Senate Enrolled Act 408: 

Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force recommendations
The Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force that the Attorney General co-chairs has for two years studied the rampant health problem of Hoosiers becoming addicted to opioid drugs such as prescription pain medications.  The Legislature passed three bills the task force recommended:
 

  • The task force reviewed the problem of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome or NAS, where newborns exposed to prescription or illicit drugs while in the womb suffer from withdrawal symptoms including respiratory complications, low birth weight, feeding difficulties and seizures. Senate Enrolled Act 408 establishes a standard clinical definition of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, and directs the Indiana State Department of Health to meet with various medical and pediatric stakeholders, to develop recommendations regarding diagnosis and screening and reporting of statistics of NAS that will be presented to the Legislative Council no later than November 1, 2014.  SEA 408 also allows ISDH  before June 1, 2015, to establish pilot programs with hospitals to put the NAS recommendations into practice.  Rep. Kubacki chairs the House committee that heard SEA 408 during the session.

    “I am passionate about the future of our state and the youngest Hoosiers who will lead in the years to come.  As the chairwoman of the House Committee on Family, Children and Human Affairs, protecting the interests, safety and health of Indiana families is near and dear to my heart.  Indiana’s high infant mortality rate is troubling, and we are diligently working to help mothers and children in need. This new law is a positive step that will enhance treatment options for children born with NAS and assist mothers as well,” Rep. Kubacki said. 
     
  • Intended to deter prescription drug abuse that might be facilitated by overprescribing by providers, the Indiana Scheduled Prescription Electronic Collection and Tracking Program, or INSPECT, is a database the state has operated for several years that tracks the dispensing of certain addictive controlled substances.  So that the database is kept updated in a timely manner, the task force recommended House Enrolled Act 1218, which requires pharmacists to provide dispensing information to INSPECT on certain opioid drugs – within three days, starting July 1, 2015, and within 24 hours, starting January 1, 2016.  HEA 1218 includes privacy protections to confidentiality.  
  • Mindful of patients already addicted, another of the task force’s recommendations was to address Indiana’s shortage of mental health professionals and addiction treatment professionals.  To encourage more of these professionals to practice in Indiana, House Enrolled Act 1360 offers up to five years of student loan forgiveness grants to psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, addiction counselors and mental health professionals who are pursuing addiction training in behavioral health and addiction psychiatry -- provided they practice their specialty within the state. 

Senate Enrolled Act 291:  Human Trafficking case coordination

Prior to the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis, the Legislature at Zoeller’s recommendation passed a new human trafficking statute, so that prosecutors could criminally charge those who facilitate organized commercial prostitution through coercion of sexual abuse victims. This year’s update to the human trafficking law, Senate Enrolled Act 291, clarifies that the Attorney General’s Office has the same authority as a law enforcement agency to access and maintain information about human trafficking investigations and assist in prosecution of violations.  The Attorney General is co-chair of the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans (IPATH) task force.  Rep. Cox was House sponsor of SEA 291.

“I was pleased to sponsor SEA 291 to broaden the authority of the Attorney General and improve the efficiency of our state’s law enforcement efforts. More than that, I was humbled to lead on a bill that unified members of both parties behind a worthwhile cause.  By giving the Attorney General similar authority on this matter as law enforcement, Indiana will improve its efforts in prosecuting criminals and getting rid of human trafficking in our state,” Rep. Cox said.

Senate Enrolled Act 349 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 16: Telephone Privacy

Operated by the Attorney General's Office, Indiana’s Do Not Call List program now has more than 2.3 million phone numbers registered by Hoosier consumers who do not want to be pestered with nuisance sales calls.  Telemarketers are required by law to abide by the list and not contact registered numbers or face civil penalties.  But in 2013 there were nearly 14,000 complaints from consumers who received unwanted telemarketing calls despite being on the list; and recently some companies have exploited technology to circumvent or evade the Do Not Call law.  One typical scenario:  A company selling a product or service does not cold-call directly but instead uses a third-party company as a lead generator to place unwanted robo-calls and then transfer the calls to the original company.  Senate Enrolled Act 349 updates Indiana’s statute to prohibit that practice, meaning companies that violate it will be subject to civil penalties.

In a related effort, the Legislature and Attorney General are urging the Federal Communications Commission to take more seriously the problem of robo-calls generated from outside the United States.  A large portion of illegal calls telemarketers make involve robo-calls generated using technology that can blast more than 30,000 calls per hour to Indiana residents, Zoeller said.  Due to jurisdictional hurdles, state governments do not have legal authority to prosecute illegal robo-calls originating overseas; it’s a federal responsibility.  Senate Concurrent Resolution 16 is a formal official request made by the Legislature, asking the FCC at the federal level to more aggressively regulate telemarketing calls and robo-calls that violate Hoosiers’ telephone privacy.  Now that the Legislature has passed it, SCR-16 will be officially transmitted by the state Senate to the FCC as a statement of the State’s position.

Senate Enrolled Act 394: Consumer Protection

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division investigates thousands of consumer complaints about many types of businesses each year.  The office uses a type of subpoena called a civil investigative demand (CID) to obtain information from businesses and determine how consumer complaints should be resolved.  To strengthen the office’s ability to investigate complaints involving nonresidents and foreign corporations outside Indiana, Senate Enrolled Act 394 includes some updated enforcement provisions for individuals or companies who ignore CIDs and do not comply and respond with the subpoenaed information, including fines. 

The Attorney General’s Office offers a free “security freeze” to consumers to protect their credit record against identity theft.  For anyone considered a “protected consumer” (a child under 16 or mentally disabled adult) who is also at risk of having their identity stolen, SEA 394 also makes it easier for the protected consumer's parent or guardian to protect their identity by obtaining a security freeze on their behalf.  Sen. Zakas authored the bill.

“Senate Enrolled Act 394 expands consumer protection in many ways, including giving Attorney General Zoeller and his staff more authority to investigate complaints involving foreign corporations that do not comply with certain subpoenas.  This is significant, bipartisan legislation, which further protects our most vulnerable Hoosiers from having their identities stolen by authorizing parents or guardians to obtain security freezes on their behalf,” Sen. Zakas said.

Senate Enrolled Act 406:  Medicaid Fraud

By intervening in whistleblower lawsuits, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office has since January 2009 recovered approximately $50 million in settlements with pharmaceutical companies to resolve allegations of illegal off-label drug marketing.  State and federal versions of the False Claims Act allow private whistleblowers to file suit against companies that defraud government and allow the state itself to join such lawsuits and participate in any financial recovery.  Authored by Sen. Mishler, Senate Enrolled Act 406 makes the state’s version of the False Claims  Act consistent with the federal version which will improve enforcement in federal court.  Through passing the legislation, the State of Indiana will remain eligible for an additional 10 percent bonus financial recovery, beyond what it would already recover, funds that go back into the Indiana Medicaid program in the Family and Social Services Administration. More information about Medicaid fraud whistleblower lawsuits is on the Attorney General’s Office  website at this link: http://bit.ly/OwR3wJ

“Indiana loses so much money to Medicaid fraud, and my goal is to continue to recoup taxpayer dollars from scammers.  I look forward to working on all Medicaid matters with FSSA as the state’s single point-of-contact,” Sen. Mishler said.  

Location Information:
Allen County

Elkhart County

Huntington County

Kosciusko County

Marshall County

Noble County

St. Joseph County

Whitley County
Contact Information:
Name: Bryan Corbin
Phone: 317.233.3970
Email: Bryan.Corbin@atg.in.gov
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