TMA Legislative News Hotline: Friday, Feb. 20, 2015

VIDEO HIGHLIGHT

Watch this week’s TMA Legislative News Hotline video to see San Antonio pediatrician Ryan Van Ramshorst, MD, enthusiastically explain what he believes is the state’s obligation to ensure patients such as the children he serves have access to specialists’ care. He describes the medical specialists he has the greatest difficulty finding for his patients, and we learn about the distances some of his patients have to travel for care, despite being in a large city. The problem? Inadequate networks. He describes his favorite parts of the bill that would solve these problems, the Medicaid HMO network adequacy legislation for which he testified this week. This and a wrap of other top bill action are in this week’s quick Hotline video report.

 

TMA IN ACTION

Mark your calendar for the remaining 2015 First Tuesdays at the Capitol April 7 and May 5. Register today. More than 700 TMA and TMA Alliance members have attended the event to advocate for what’s best for patients and the practice of medicine in Texas medicine’s 2015 legislative agenda outlined in TMA's Healthy Vision 2020, Second Edition: 

  • Increase funding for graduate medical education.
  • Improve physicians’ Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program payments to more appropriately reflect the services they provide to patients.
  • Hold health insurance companies accountable for creating and promoting adequate physician networks.
  • Devise and enact a system for providing health care to low-income Texans that improves efficiencies by reducing bureaucracy and paperwork.
  • Stop any efforts to expand scope of practice beyond that safely permitted by nonphysician practitioners’ education, training, and skills.
  • Promote government efficiency and accountability by reducing red tape.
  • Protect physicians’ ability to charge for their services.
  • Improve the state’s public health defense to better respond in a crisis.
  • Preserve Texas’ landmark medical liability reforms.
  • Protect the patient-physician relationship from corporate intrusions. 

 BILL UPDATE

The sunset bills for the state’s health agencies are making their way through both chambers. Senate Bill 219 by Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), and House Bill 550 by Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo), the 2,200-page sunset cleanup bill, were approved by the Senate yesterday. The House version is on the House calendar March 25. Senate Bill 200 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), which addresses the continuation and functions of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, is before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee March 23. The House companion is House Bill 2304 by Representative Price.

Senate Bill 203 by Senator Nelson and House Bill 1680 by Rep. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo) were voted out of their respective committees this week. SB 203, which addresses recommendations proposed by the Sunset Advisory Commission to continue the Texas Health Services Authority (THSA), was voted out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday. THSA was created by the Texas Legislature in 2007 as a public-private partnership to help coordinate the implementation of health information exchange.

House Bill 661 by Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond), was voted out of the House Public Health Committee on Tuesday. The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact legislation aims to make it easier for qualified physicians to obtain medical licensure in multiple states if they choose. Check out TMA’s Quick Facts about HB 661. The Senate companion is Senate Bill 190 by Senator Schwertner.

The state’s tax relief legislation was approved by the Senate Finance Committee this week. Senate bills 1 and 7 by Senator Nelson would provide property tax relief. Details to come. Senate Bill 8 by Senator Schwertner allows more small- and medium-sized businesses to qualify for exemptions from the franchise tax. It exempts businesses with a total revenue of $4 million or less from paying the tax, which would apply to 52 percent of the businesses in the state.

House Bill 177 by Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington), establishing the Texas Adult Stem Cell Research Coordinating Board to promote adult stem cell research, was approved by the House State Affairs Committee. The consortium would be composed of participating institutions of higher education and businesses that accept public money for adult stem cell research. The bill also would amend the hospital licensing law to authorize a hospital to use adult stem cells if a physician determines the use is appropriate and if the patient consents. 

The Senate Finance Committee took up Senate Bill 18 by Senator Nelson yesterday. The measure aims to improve Texas’ physician workforce by allocating an additional $60 million for graduate medical education (GME) expansions. The funding would sustain the 2013 GME expansion programs while building other programs to improve access to care. House Bill 1445 by Rep. Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City) is the companion legislation. TMA supports the bill.

FEDERAL UPDATE

5 Reasons Conservatives Should Support the Medicare Reform Plan
By Elizabeth Seymour, MD, and John Flores, MD

Texas physicians, of course, are applauding the recent announcement from Washington of a bipartisan plan to repeal Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula.

North Texas physicians are proud that our own Rep. Michael Burgess is once again the primary author of this proposal in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Congress enacted the SGR 18 years ago. It hasn’t worked to control Medicare costs. It’s time to repeal it. The only thing it has done is threaten physicians year after year with huge Medicare cuts — and force Congress to spend time patching over the proposed cuts.

Physicians are tired of the never-ending uncertainty; the never-ending threats; the never-ending need to lobby Congress on the same, never-ending problem. Our patients are tired of the never-ending fear of losing their doctor. Eighteen years and 17 patches is enough. Read more.

WHAT WE’RE READING


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