TMA Legislative News Hotline: Friday, May 8, 2015


This week’s TMA Legislative News Hotline video focuses on doctors’ efforts to persuade legislators to pass a medicine- and patient-friendly budget. Hear new TMA President Tom Garcia, MD; new Board of Trustees Chair Doug Curran, MD; new House of Delegates Vice Speaker Arlo Weltge, MD; Trustee E. Linda Villarreal, MD; and former TMA House Speaker Clifford Moy, MD, give their perspectives on where TMA’s budget priorities stand as House-Senate budget conferees continue their work. The 10-member panel is charged with agreeing on Texas’ fiscal plan for the next two years, by bridging the differences between the respective chambers’ initial proposals.




The Texas Senate has adjourned for the weekend. Senators completed a Local and Uncontested Calendar (which included no key bills for medicine) this morning and closed up shop. The House of Representatives also ran through a Local and Uncontested Calendar this morning but has a 17-page schedule of bills to consider this afternoon and evening.


The House today gave preliminary approval to House Bill 1514 by Rep. J.D. Sheffield, DO (R-Gatesville), one of TMA’s priority bills. It would require issuers of Accountable Care Act (ACA) exchange plans (known as qualified health plans) in Texas to display the acronym “QHP” on the plan ID card, and “QHP-S” on the card if the enrollee is receiving a subsidy. The intent is to help physicians’ offices easily identify patients who are eligible for the ACA’s 90-day grace period, and allow doctors and staff to stress to patients the importance of paying their insurance premiums.

An important mental health bill is also on the House calendar today for second reading. It’s House Bill 3677 by Rep. Paul Workman (R-Austin), which would permit physicians to initiate a four-hour hold on patients in certain situations. Doctors could hold patients who have sought care at a hospital or freestanding emergency medical center voluntarily but then want to leave though the treating physician believes the patient is a danger to self or others. The bill’s Senate companion, Senate Bill 359 by Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas), already passed the Senate.

As we mentioned yesterday, the bill to outlaw minors’ ability to buy e-cigarettes and similar vapor products is back. Senate Bill 97 by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) and Rep. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) is on the House calendar for preliminary approval today. The bill would regulate e-cigarettes similarly to tobacco products and prevent vapor products from being sold or given to anyone under age 27 without valid identification. It also would prohibit students or others from using vapor products at school-related or school-sanctioned events, on or off campus.

Here’s a rundown on the telemedicine bills we’ve been monitoring on the House floor. So far, no dangerous amendments have been added to any of them. 

  • House Bill 2004 by Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo), which would test emergency telemedicine consultations for isolated rural areas, received final House approval yesterday.
  • House Bill 3476 by Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), which would establish pilot programs to test in-home telemonitoring services for certain patients covered by Medicaid and other state-run health care programs, also got the House’s final blessing yesterday.
  • Two bills authored by Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker) won final House approval today. House Bill 1878 would allow the state Medicaid program to pay physicians for school-based telemedicine services involving the school nurse. House Bill 1623 would allow Medicaid to pay for home telemonitoring services for children with certain chronic or complex medical needs.
  • The fifth bill in the package, House Bill 3519 by Rep. Bobby Guerra (D-Mission) is up for preliminary House approval today. It would allow Medicaid to pay for home telemonitoring services for patients with two or more specific medical conditions and a history of frequent hospital admissions or emergency room visits. 

Also yesterday, Senate Bill 1753 by Sen. Donna Campbell, MD (R-New Braunfels), sponsored in the House by Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), won initial House approval. It earned final House vote today. It would require hospitals to spell out in plain English on health care professionals’ ID badges whether the person wearing the badge is a “physician,” a “dentist,” a “therapeutic optometrist,” a “clinical nurse specialist,” etc. Since the identical bill has already passed the Senate, SB 1753 now goes straight to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for signature.

House Bill 2271 by Representative Sheffield is up for a House vote today. It would set up a recycling program for unused drugs in sealed packaging. It would not apply to controlled substances. The donated drugs could be administered to patients only in a charitable medical clinic, a physician's office (for Medicaid patients or other indigent health care), or a penal institution in Texas. 

On the Local and Consent Calendar this morning, the House approved House Bill 3433 by Representative Sheffield. It would increase from 17 to 19 the number of members on the Perinatal Advisory Council by one new licensed physician specializing in family medicine who provides obstetrical care in a rural community and one additional member representing a rural hospital. 


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