11 Days Remaining in 2013 Legislature
Lawmakers passed two bills Wednesday that are essential for locking down the final budget puzzle pieces. The Senate approved House Bill 1025, the emergency appropriations bill that covers unpaid bills in the current budget cycle, ending Aug. 30. It authorizes using $3.9 billion of the state’s rainy day fund to cover extra funding for public education, current school district obligations, utility fee rebates to Electric Reliability Council of Texas customers, and the state’s new water fund if approved by voters.
Meanwhile the House approved Senate Joint Resolution 1 that would ask voters to approve the creation of a new state water fund to help communities pay for infrastructure projects over the next 50 years.
With these two bills resolved, the Senate and House now can vote on Senate Bill 1 — the state’s budget bill. The bill is expected to be in both chambers this weekend. Stay tuned.
Red Tape Reduction Bills Pass: The Senate unanimously approved TMA’s bill yesterday that would start the renewal of physicians' Department of Public Safety (DPS) Controlled Substances Registration with their online medical license renewal at the Texas Medical Board. Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) submitted a substitute in committee, and one amendment was added on the floor. Rep. Bill Callegari (R-Katy) now just needs to concur with these changes.
The House gave final approval to Senate Bill 1216 by Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler) and Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place) Wednesday. It requires the Texas Department of Insurance to appoint a stakeholder workgroup to design a standard request form for prior authorization of health care services applicable across all payers. Once the Senate concurs with the added amendments, it will go to governor’s desk for signature.
Insurance Reform: The House unanimously approved Senate Bill 1221 by Sen. Ken Paxton (R-McKinney) and Rep. John Smithee (R-Amarillo) yesterday with no amendments. SB 1221 ensures physicians know when their discounted contract rates under Medicaid managed care or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are applied to products other than Medicaid or CHIP. The bill ensures managed care plans cannot apply physicians’ existing agreed-to discounts for their Medicaid/CHIP business to new commercial products in the health insurance exchange without notification and consent. The bill now goes to Gov. Rick Perry for signature.
Mental Health Services: The House gave final approval Wednesday to Senate Bill 126 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) and Rep. John Davis (R-Houston), and to Senate Bill 646 by Sen. Robert Deuell, MD (R-Greenville), and Rep. Elliot Naishtat (D-Austin). SB 126 creates the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Reporting program through which the Department of State Health Services would report to the public its mental health and substance abuse services. SB 646 mends current law relating to court-ordered outpatient mental health services. Both bills now need Senate authors to concur.
Patient Privacy: The House yesterday unanimously approved two TMA bills aimed at improving the state’s new privacy law for physicians. Senate Bill 1609 and Senate Bill 1610 by Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), and Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) would modify the privacy bill of last session to ensure streamlined training of staff and to prevent physicians from having to meet multiple state privacy requirements. SB 1609 will now go to the governor, but Senator Schwertner will need to concur with changes to SB 1610.
Controlled Substances: The House approved Senate Bill 1643 by Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) and Rep. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) yesterday. It improves access to prescription information by physicians. It allows them to delegate information retrieval to a nurse and allows for connection to DPS through a health information exchange, as long as proper security measures are in place to protect against disclosure to unauthorized individuals. The bill also allows physicians to include that information in a patient’s medical records, but that information would be subject to any applicable state or federal confidentiality or privacy laws. Senator Williams now needs to concur with the amendment added.
Workforce: The Senate gave final approval Wednesday to Senate Bill 24 by Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D-McAllen) and Rep. Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville) that would establish a new university in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The new school, which includes a medical school, is part of The University of Texas System. The bill now goes to the governor for signature.
PHYSICIAN OF THE DAY
The physician of the day at the Capitol is Elise Sadoun, MD, of Sugar Land. Dr. Sadoun graduated from Ohio State University College of Medicine in 2007. This is Dr. Sadoun’s second consecutive day as physician of the day.
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