UNDER THE ROTUNDA
The days are getting longer, both because it’s finally spring – and the legislative session is beginning its final act.
Before the House and Senate adjourned for the long Easter weekend, some bills the Texas Medical Association is watching moved on to the next step in the legislative process.
Yesterday, House Bill 3911 by Rep. Hubert Vo (D-Houston) – which would require the Texas Department of Insurance to examine the network adequacy of preferred provider organizations (PPOs) and exclusive provider organizations (EPOs) at least once every two years – was voted favorably out of the House Insurance Committee. TMA supports this bill and testified in support of it earlier this month.
House Bill 2099 by Rep. Stan Lambert (R-Abilene) also won the approval of the House Insurance Committee. Earlier this month, TMA submitted written testimony in support of the bill, which would prohibit a health plan from changing a patient’s drug coverage upon plan renewal if the patient has been stable on that drug.
Also yesterday, House Bill 1365 by Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville), which would allow a physician to recommend low-THC cannabis for medical use by a patient with a debilitating medical condition, was voted favorably out of the House Public Health Committee. The bill would require that the physician have proper knowledge concerning the medical use of the product as treatment for the patient’s specific condition. In addition, the physician must maintain treatment and monitoring plans.
Although TMA supports adequate and well-controlled studies of marijuana and related cannabinoids for potential medical uses, TMA policy in no way endorses the legalization of recreational marijuana usage.
TMA continues to recommend to lawmakers that the federal government reclassify marijuana as something other than a Schedule I drug, so it can be properly accessed for research. Reclassification also would allow physicians to freely exchange information with patients on the effects and use of marijuana and its derivatives, as well as other unapproved complementary therapies. We will continue to closely monitor the progress of HB 1365.
And late Tuesday, House Bill 1880 by Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), which would establish time limits for corrections and updates to be made to insurers’ online network directories, was voted favorably from the House Insurance Committee. TMA supports this bill and testified in support last week.
All four bills await scheduling for debate on the House floor.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick named the Senate members of the budget’s conference committee. These representatives will negotiate with House members named last week on the differences in the two chambers’ proposed 2020-21 state budgets:
- Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), chair; Senator Nelson chairs the Senate Finance Committee;
- Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), who chairs the Senate State Affairs Committee;
- Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee;
- Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), who chairs the Senate Committee on Transportation; and
- Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), who chairs the Senate Education Committee.
The conference committee has until late May to distribute a draft of the biennial budget. A top priority remains TMA’s request for a $500 million infusion of new state dollars to increase physicians’ Medicaid payment rates. TMA will submit written comments and recommendations on other priority items for medicine early next week.
GETTING A BILL MOVING
TMA is monitoring 1,943 of the 7,731 bills filed this session. Bills must be voted out of committee before they can be heard on the floor and voted on by the full body. Then the process repeats in the other chamber. Bills in the House must be out of committee by May 6 to be considered by the Senate this session.
ARE YOU A LEGISLATIVE JUNKIE?
If talk of bills and committees and backroom deals initiate tachycardia, you might want to join TMA Leading Advocates. It’s TMA’s exclusive Facebook group for legislative advocacy. Enjoy special features, news in advance, and a community of TMA members who are excited to talk about the Texas legislature and medicine's advocacy priorities. This closed group is open only to TMA and TMA Alliance members, and TMA and county medical society staff. Join today.
TMA’s 2019 legislative agenda includes priorities to help advance patient care in Texas.
At the top of the list are the state budget, insurance reform, scope of practice, maternal health, the Texas Medical Board and Medical Practice Act, and public health.
TMA member physicians and medical students, and TMA Alliance members play a significant role in advancing medicine’s priorities at the Capitol. Here are some ways you can help:
Make sure you receive TMA’s Legislative News Hotline each day, via Texas Medicine Today. Here’s how: Just log in to the Edit My Interests page on your TMA profile. Ensure you get all the legislative updates by selecting "Health care issues in the Texas Legislature" as one of your Grassroots and Advocacy interests. TMA’s updates on the latest bills affecting medicine will arrive in your inbox as part of Texas Medicine Today at 2 pm each day lawmakers convene at the Capitol throughout Texas’ 86th legislative session.
PHYSICIAN OF THE DAY
Today’s physician of the day is Dan Freeland, DO, of Austin. Dr. Freeland graduated from the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Missouri and is a member of both TMA and the Travis County Medical Society.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Texas House approves bills to secure future of cancer research agency – KXAN-TV
Texas Senate passes legislation to prevent surprise medical bills with arbitration, mediation – The Texas Tribune
Commentary: Beating cancer meant an uphill battle with my insurer. That must change. – Austin American-Statesman
The ‘brain is something that’s forever’: Concussions are major concern in youth soccer – here’s what is being done to combat them – The Dallas Morning News
Protect trauma funding and save lives [Opinion] – Houston Chronicle
Baby Boy Receiving Treatment After He Was Born Without Skin – The Associated Press, San Antonio Express-News
Telemedicine, Walk-In Clinics Cloud Role of Family Doctor – The Associated Press
When Medical Schools Become Less Diverse – The Atlantic
Republicans reject Democratic attempts to tighten vaccine laws – Politico