UNDER THE ROTUNDA
Today was the final First Tuesdays at the Capitol advocacy event of the legislative session, and during the white coat invasion Texas Medical Association and TMA Alliance members were well informed for their visits with lawmakers on bills that TMA is both pushing and fighting.
Fewer than three weeks remain in this session. If a bill hasn’t been passed out of committee by now, it is likely dead. Bills that aren’t voted out of committee can be proposed as amendments to legislation that is moving, but that strategy is not always successful. Conventional wisdom among legislators is that if a bill couldn’t get out of committee, it must not be worthy to be an amendment. That is not a hard and fast rule, but it is a common occurrence.
The next hurdle: House bills must have had their initial debate on the House floor by the end of the day Thursday, May 9. Then bills repeat the process in the Senate.
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, was heard in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee earlier today. TMA submitted written testimony in support of the bill.
- 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 variety of debilitating medical conditions, was debated on the House floor yesterday evening. 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, and that the physician maintain treatment and monitoring plans. HB 1365 received preliminary approval 121-23 with no discussion and awaits its final vote on the House floor. TMA is closely monitoring this bill.
- House Joint Resolution 12, by Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond) is the funding mechanism for House Bill 39, also by Representative Zerwas, which would repeal the 2022 sunset date for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and extend it by 10 years. 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 measure, which was voted unanimously out of the Senate Finance Committee earlier today. The measure will be heard on the full Senate floor.
- Senate Bill 752 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), which would provide liability protection for physicians who volunteer in the aftermath of a disaster, received preliminary approval on a voice vote on the House floor yesterday evening, and now awaits a final vote. TMA strongly supports this bill.
- 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 – received preliminary House approval yesterday evening and awaits a final vote. TMA 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, received preliminary approval 130-6 on the House floor last evening. HB 2099 should easily pass the House and will then head to the Senate, where it will be referred for a committee hearing. 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 John Green III, MD, of San Antonio. Dr. Green graduated from the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston and is a member of both TMA and the Bexar County Medical Society.
WHAT WE’RE READING
U.S. reports 60 new measles cases in worst outbreak since 1994 – Reuters
Measles outbreaks happen when vaccinations stop [Opinion] – San Antonio Express-News
Amid measles crisis, Texas bills targeting vaccine issues slow to move – Austin American-Statesman
About 1 in 4 women of reproductive age don’t have health insurance – Houston Chronicle
Black Maternal Mortality: Clinical Instinct Vs Racism – MedPage Today
Guidelines to treat leading cause of maternal deaths focus on heart disease – Houston Chronicle
Report: Substance Abuse Death Rates in North Texas Outpacing State and National Averages – D CEO Healthcare
The Texas-Led Challenge to Obamacare Is Moving Quickly. Here’s What That Means. – KUT