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VA Governor Signs Executive Order to Implement Congenital Heart Disease Screening Legislation

Cardiologists' Grassroots Efforts Play Key Role

Just weeks after issuing a veto for Congenital Heart Disease Screening Legislation (HB 399), Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell implemented an Executive Order to put HB 399 in place, a decision made after discussions with key stakeholders led by ACC Staff including Delegate Patrick Hope, the ACC Virginia Chapter and others including Mended Little Hearts and AHA. The legislation will establish a public-private work group to develop a program for screening newborns for critical congenital cyanotic heart disease using pulse oximetry monitoring and providing appropriate early intervention services to infants identified as having the disease. 

The legislation was passed unanimously by the Virginia House and Senate and was supported throughout the state by health care providers and patient advocacy organizations, including the ACC's Virginia Chapter and the Virginia chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association, before it was vetoed. According to the ACC's Virginia Chapter President Rober Shor, MD, FACC, Gov. McDonnell explained that he vetoed the bill in order to avoid increasing the size of government in perpetuity. Shor expressed disappointment with McDonnell's initial decision, saying it was a missed opportunity to help protect Virginia infants and had the potential to negatively impact Virginia receiving a federal grant of $1 million that would help address this issue. 

After the veto announcement, Shor stressed that an Executive Order could fulfill the same objective as the bill by creating an optimal path toward universal screening of newborns for congenital heart disease.  "An Executive Order would put the congenital heart disease screening policy in place without creating any new government bodies or increasing the size of government," he said. "Additionally, the bill does not have a fiscal impact on the state’s budget."

Pulse oximetry screening for critical congenital heart disease is endorsed by the ACC, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, and the Department of Health and Human Services. To date five states (Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Tennessee, and West Virginia) have approved plans that will assure universal testing of newborns for congenital heart disease. “We want the Commonwealth of Virginia to join this group this year,” Shor said last month.  
The New Hampshire legislature recently passed a CCHD screening bill, which will be reviewed by an oversight committee prior to the Governor’s evaluation and signature, and the Connecticut Senate recently passed a bill to require CCHD screening. The health departments of Michigan, Ohio and Alabama are also currently crafting regulations to require the screening. The ACC’s State Government Relations team is strategizing with stakeholders to advance this screening requirement in several other states.

Dr. Dipti Itchhaporia discusses "Implementing Critical Congenital Heart Disease Screening Policies" in a recent blog post.  Stay tuned to the ACC in Touch blog for an array of hot topics, including state advocacy efforts.