UNDER THE ROTUNDA
Telemedicine Bill One Step Closer to Law! The Senate on Thursday enrolled (gave final passage to) the bill that would regulate the practice of telemedicine in Texas. Senators concurred with House amendments to Senate Bill 1107 by Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), sponsored in the House by Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo). The bill creates a framework for telemedicine care in Texas — notably establishing a clear definition of telemedicine in state law and clarifying that the same standard of care that applies in a traditional, in-person setting also applies to telemedical services. The House added language that prohibits a health plan from excluding telemedicine from coverage just because care isn’t provided in person.
TMA testified in strong support of the legislation several times this session. The bill now will be sent to Gov. Greg Abbott for approval to become law.
Texting Ban Passes! This afternoon, the Senate gave its final passage to House Bill 62 by Rep. Tom Craddick (R-Midland) to ban texting while driving statewide. Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) is the Senate sponsor of the bill that passed 23-8.
This followed a contentious debate over a proposed amendment that bill supporters said would have gutted the bill. (That amendment failed.)
“I have waited 10 years to make this motion,” said Senator Zaffirini as she moved final passage. The House must now concur in amendments to finally pass the bill. The Senate State Affairs Committee just passed the bill, a TMA and Texas Public Health Coalition priority, on Tuesday.
Supplemental Budget Passes: The Senate Finance committee took a big step toward passing the supplemental budget
bill for this two-year cycle, approving House Bill 2 on Thursday. According news reports, the bill senators passed adds about $800 million in state funds to cover the current budget’s Medicaid shortfall. The bill also adds $1.6 billion in federal funds to cover that gap.
Another $158 million in combined state/federal funds pays for Texas Department of Family and Protective Services needs, largely for hiring new Child Protective Services caseworkers. HB 2 also would cover repairs at state mental hospitals as well as gaps in public education and the state teachers’ pension program. The budget bill totals $2.6 billion.
“This bill protects the most vulnerable among us: our children,” Senate Finance Committee chair Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) told reporters. The bill now heads to the full Senate.
Meanwhile the House-Senate Budget Conference Committee is said to still be finishing details in Senate Bill 1, the budget bill for the 2018-19 biennium.
Mental Health Parity Up Today? House Bill 10 by Representative Price, a bill that would create mental health care parity, is eligible for Senate vetting today. HB 10 would establish a state mental health parity work group, designate an ombudsman as an advocacy resource, and clarify benefit terms and coverage for mental health and substance use. TMA hopes the legislation also will improve Texas Department of Insurance mental health parity oversight; increase physician, health care provider, and patient engagement towards achieving true mental health parity; and identify areas to improve historic parity challenges. The measure advanced out of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee on Tuesday.
ACO Bill Up As Well? The full Senate also may consider House Bill 3124 by Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Terrell) today. HB 3124 would allow doctors in physician-led accountable care organizations to receive and share physician-specific comparison data and information. Senate Business and Commerce passed that bill Tuesday as well.
Prescription Drug Monitoring Passes: The House Public Health Committee on Thursday passed by a 10-1 vote the revamp of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), Senate Bill 316 by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) and Rep. Larry Gonzalez (R-Round Rock). The bill’s intent is to identify potentially harmful prescribing or dispensing patterns or practices that may suggest drug diversion or “doctor shopping,” addressing people’s misuse of, and addiction to, opioid pain medicines.
SB 316 requires prescribers and dispensers to check just four classes of controlled substances: opioids, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and carisoprodol — but the mandate to check the PDMP before prescribing those classes of medications doesn’t go into effect until Sept. 1, 2019.
The bill incorporates many of TMA’s recommendations to use the new and evolving technology that the Texas PDMP offers. It is now up to the House Calendars Committee to schedule the bill for hearing on the House floor.
Continue to Speak Out: TMA’s Grassroots Action Center helped nearly 700 TMA physicians send strong messages to lawmakers to kill a bad bill for medicine last week (House Bill 4011), and it can help you act, too. The interactive Action Center features alerts posted on scope-of-practice issues, physician regulatory bills, public health bills, and more. One click takes you to a set of talking points you can use to compose a quick email that goes right to the Capitol. TMA urges you to keep up the pressure in support of good medicine and the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship, particularly since now lawmakers might use amendments to tack good and bad ideas onto bills still in play. Look for new alerts today and in the near future on the state budget and about Senate Bill 1148 by Senator Buckingham, the maintenance of certification bill, which the House Public Health Committee approved earlier this week.
TMA’s “2017 Prescription to Keep Texas Healthy” legislative agenda can help — it describes TMA’s top-priority issues this session in a concise, bulleted layout to inform you for discussions with lawmakers.
PHYSICIAN OF THE DAY
The physician of the day at the Capitol is Rayford Mitchell, MD, of Karnes City. Dr. Mitchell graduated from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. He is a member of TMA and the Karnes-Wilson County Medical Society.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Texas House passes child welfare reforms ― The Texas Tribune
Texting bill has added support, Craddick says, but concerns remain ― Austin American-Statesman
Bill making school bus seat belts mandatory advances in Legislature ― Houston Chronicle
House May Need to Vote Again on GOP Obamacare Repeal Bill ― Bloomberg
TMA Testimonies main page
TMA's Texas Legislature main page