June 24, 2013
The Texas Medical Association (TMA) is praising Texas legislators for passing an incredible package of bills this legislative session that will help patients and physicians.
“Texas patients and their physicians won big at the state Capitol,” said Stephen L. Brotherton, MD, TMA’s president. “At the top of the association’s list are new laws cutting red tape and paperwork hassles that delay patient care and cost everyone more money, improved funding for mental health and women’s health care services, and programs that will help keep young doctors in Texas to cover our ever-growing need.”
More money for patient care
“Legislators approved a big increase in funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment services desperately needed to keep up with Texas’ population growth and demand,” said Dr. Brotherton. New funds target mental illness prevention, early identification, community-based services, and inpatient hospital care.
The steep budget cuts made to women’s health services in 2011 were reversed. “Lawmakers even added more money to these programs to ensure more low-income women receive preventive care when they need care,” added Dr. Brotherton.
Lawmakers also took steps to improve Texas’ physician workforce shortage. “They recognized the dire need to retain Texas’ medical school graduates and for the first time created incentive programs to grow graduate medical education,” explained Dr. Brotherton. Texas’ physician education loan repayment programs also were enhanced to ensure more physicians could practice in rural and underserved areas. Lawmakers also stopped off-shore medical schools from buying up core clinical clerkship spots in Texas hospitals.
“Unfortunately left undone was finding a way to broaden coverage for the 6 million Texans without health care coverage,” added Dr. Brotherton. “TMA will continue to work with state leaders to look for innovative solutions that leverage federal dollars to help provide access for these working poor Texans.”
Lawmakers took significant steps to reduce red tape and paperwork hassles that delay patient care. Four of TMA’s hassle-busting bills passed. One lets patients sign in at their doctor’s office with a swipe of their driver license. Others create standardized prior-authorization forms for medications and medical services, meaning less paperwork for doctors’ offices and fewer delays for patients — both of which drive up costs. Another streamlines the way physicians renew their state Controlled Substances Registration — a permit allowing them to prescribe certain medications — which has been fraught with delays in recent years. Without this permit, physicians cannot take care of their patients in the hospital or write prescriptions for critical painkillers.
Physician-led medical teams
A landmark bill creates a more collaborative, delegated practice among physicians and advanced practice registered nurses or physician assistants. The law firmly establishes the physician-led medical team, allows all members of the health care team to practice at their level of education and training, and places more authority and responsibility on the physician to supervise the team and the patients’ care.
“Diagnosing and prescribing remain the practice of medicine, which only physicians are trained and authorized to do by Texas law,” Dr. Brotherton said. “But the good news is that by working together as a team — doctors, nurses, and physician assistants — we can take care of more patients and do a better job of it.”
Young Texans protected
New laws improve Texas’ immunization policies. Child care centers now must have a vaccination policy in place for their workers to help protect babies and young children in their care from getting sick. Minor parents now can consent for their own vaccines. The state budget also keeps the state Fitnessgram program alive in schools, providing critical data to address the state’s obesity epidemic.
“Legislators really delivered for Texas patients and physicians this year. However, Texas is a big state with big health care needs. There is still more work ahead,” stated Dr. Brotherton.
TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 47,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 112 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.
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Note: Please click here to view a video summary of the key legislation passed this session.
Contact: Pam Udall
phone: (512) 370-1382
cell: (512) 413-6807
Contact: Brent Annear
phone: (512) 370-1381
cell: (512) 656-7320
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