UNDER THE ROTUNDA
Tomorrow is the final First Tuesdays advocacy event of the legislative session, and the white coat invasion will be well informed for their visits with lawmakers on bills that the Texas Medical Association is both supporting and opposing.
Twenty-one days remain in this legislative session. To put into perspective how quickly bills that originated in the House must move to have a chance to become law this session, they must be out of committee today, and have had their initial debate on the House floor by the end of the day Thursday, May 9. Then the process repeats in the Senate.
Bills that aren’t voted out of committee can be proposed as amendments to legislation that is moving.
Time is of the essence to get bills passed this session. Here’s a quick recap of several bills important to medicine:
- House Bill 10 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), which would create the Texas Behavioral Health Research Institute, award grants to increase the number of psychiatric residency positions, and create a child and adolescent psychiatric nursing grant program, is set for debate in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee tomorrow.
- House Bill 39 by Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond), which would repeal the 2022 sunset date for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and extend it by 10 years, is set on the Senate Local and Uncontested Calendar, where it is expected to face little to no opposition. TMA continues to strongly support this bill.
- House Joint Resolution 12, also by Representative Zerwas, is the funding mechanism for HB 39. HJR 12 proposes a constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to increase the maximum bond funding for CPRIT. The institute will exhaust its initial allotment of $3 billion by 2021; HJR 12 would replenish those funds, with voter approval. TMA supports this bill, which is set for debate in the Senate Finance Committee tomorrow.
- 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, is set for debate on the House floor today. The bill would also require that the physician have proper knowledge concerning the medical use of the product as treatment for the patient’s specific condition, and that the physician maintain treatment and monitoring plans. TMA is closely monitoring this bill.
- Senate Bill 1378, by Sen. Dawn Buckingham, MD (R-Lakeway), which would require new medical schools to account for peak class sizes – and not merely inaugural class sizes – when planning residency slots, was voted out of the House 140-0 late last week.
- House Bill 278 by Rep. Tom Oliverson, MD (R-Cypress), which would outline how physicians supervise prescriptive authority agreements with advanced practice registered nurses, was voted unanimously out of the Senate 31-0 and now heads to the governor. TMA supports this bill.
- Senate Bill 1519 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), which would establish a statewide council on long-term care facilities, was voted out of the Senate unanimously and has been received in the House, where it will next be referred to committee. TMA submitted written testimony in support of the bill last month.
- House Bill 1065 by Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), which would create a grant program to develop residency training tracks to prepare physicians for practice in rural, underserved settings, is pending in the Senate Higher Education Committee. HB 1065’s companion, Senate Bill 1084 by Senator Kolkhorst is also in the Senate Higher Education Committee.
- House Bill 2261 by Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston), which would increase the Physician Education Loan Repayment Program’s allowable repayment assistance amounts by $5,000 each year, bringing the total amount of repayment assistance available to $180,000, awaits a hearing in the Senate Higher Education Committee. Its companion bill, Senate Bill 998 by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen), is pending in the same committee.
- House Bill 1353 by Representative Oliverson, which would provide liability protection for physicians who volunteer in the aftermath of a disaster, was set for debate on the House floor today. The bill was still pending at press time. TMA supports HB 1353. Senate Bill 752 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), which is nearly identical to HB 1353, was voted out of the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee last week and will be heard next on the House floor. Having both bills continue to work through the process is not uncommon. TMA supports both.
- House Bill 1832 by Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Carrollton) – which would prohibit health plan coverage of an emergency care claim dependent on utilization review, protecting the prudent layperson standard – was set on the House Calendar today. TMA supports this bill.
- House Bill 1879 by Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), which would direct the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to identify and auto-enroll in the Healthy Texas Women Program women who lose eligibility for Medicaid or CHIP Perinatal due to age, was voted out of the House Public Health Committee last week and heads next to the House floor for debate. TMA strongly supports this bill.
- House Bill 2099 by Rep. Stan Lambert (R-Abilene), 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, was set for debate on the House floor today. TMA submitted written testimony in support of this bill in March.
TMA is watching each bill, committee substitute, and amendment for any changes. It is not uncommon for revised legislation to prompt a revised position from TMA, particularly when bad bills become better bills through rewriting or amendments. If you have a question about a specific bill, contact the advocacy team via the TMA Knowledge Center by email or call (800) 880-7955, Monday-Friday, 8:15 am to 5:15 pm CT.
HEALTHY VISION 2025
Healthy Vision 2025 – released in late January – is TMA’s all-inclusive, health care roadmap for legislators.
Want to help spread and promote TMA’s Healthy Vision for Texas? Become a TMA social media ambassador.
PHYSICIAN OF THE DAY
Today’s physician of the day is Janey Wang, MD, of San Antonio. Dr. Wang graduated from Akademia Medyczna Lodz in Poland and is a member of both TMA and the Bexar County Medical Society.
WHAT WE’RE READING
House OKs more billing transparency at freestanding ERs – Austin American-Statesman
Gov. Greg Abbott signs bill creating University of Houston medical school – The Texas Tribune
With Head Injuries Mounting, Will Cities Put Their Feet Down On E-Scooters? – Kaiser Health News
Health insurance deductibles soar, leaving Americans with unaffordable bills – Los Angeles Times
Most Americans grateful for their job’s health coverage, but still struggle with healthcare costs – Becker’s Hospital Review
Cocaine Deaths Up in US, and Opioids Are a Big Part of It – The Associated Press
Insys Co-Founder, Former Employees Convicted of Opioid Conspiracy – The Wall Street Journal
Fort Worth doctor who helped pass Safe Haven laws in Texas and nationwide dies at 88 –Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Brain scans show promise in spotting suicidal thoughts – CBS News