TMA Legislative News Hotline: Thursday, May 18, 2017


Step Therapy Override Awaits Abbott Signature: The TMA-supported step therapy override measure, Senate Bill 680 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), is now one signature away from becoming law. The Senate concurred with House amendments to the measure on Tuesday, and it now sits on Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. SB 680 would allow physician override of health plans’ step therapy protocols, allowing a doctor to continue prescribing an effective medication even if the insurer’s step therapy plan calls for a change in medication. 

Zika Testing: Philip Huang, MD, of Austin testified Wednesday in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee in support of House Bill 3576 by Rep. Bobby Guerra (D-McAllen). The bill would shore up the state’s testing and screening capabilities related to infectious diseases, such as the Zika virus. TMA also submitted written remarks on the bill, in which it stressed that screening, testing, reporting, and monitoring of infectious diseases “is a core function of public health.” Disease surveillance allows for the implementation of prevention and treatment activities.

“This work can be done because we have decades of science and evidence to guide testing, to identify who is at highest risk for exposure, to implement proven prevention measures, and to care for those that become ill from the infectious diseases that are already reportable in Texas,” TMA wrote.

Medicaid Vendor Drug Program: 

  • Part I — Carve-Out: A bill to keep the Medicaid Vendor Drug Program’s (VDP’s) formulary and preferred drug list (PDL) under the management of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) passed out of committee Wednesday. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved House Bill 1917 by Richard Raymond (D-Laredo), which would keep the PDL under HHSC oversight until 2023, after which managed care organizations would manage the formulary and PDL. 
  • Part II — Carve-Out Substitute: Meanwhile, across the rotunda, the House Human Services Committee voted to approve a substitute to Senate Bill 1922 by Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), which initially would have revamped the VDP by carving it into the plans. The adopted substitute language, however, is the Raymond House language and keeps the program carved out.   

TMA is neutral on both bills. Whether the VDP stays with the state or is moved to the HMOs, TMA will push hard for reforms to make the program workable for patients and physicians.

Supplemental Budget Bill Hearing: The Senate Finance Committee today began discussion of House Bill 2, the supplemental budget bill for this biennium .The supplemental appropriations bill covers shortfalls in the current (2016-17) budget. HB 2 also would cover repairs at state mental hospitals as well as budgetary holes in public education, the state teachers’ pension program, and the child welfare and foster care programs. The bill passed the House last month.

MCO Audit Transparency: The House Human Services Committee on Tuesday approved Senate Bill 894 by Sen. Dawn Buckingham, MD (R-Lakeway), which relates to HHSC’s strategy for managing audit resources, including procedures for auditing and collecting payments from Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs). The bill would require HHSC to adopt risk-based audit procedures for managed care organizations, making the process transparent. 

Psychiatrist Licensing: The House Public Health Committee on Tuesday voted out Senate Bill 674 by Senator Schwertner, which temporarily would expedite the licensing process for certain psychiatrists, including those licensed in another state and board certified. 

More GME Slots: The House Higher Education Committee Wednesday voted out Senate Bill 1066, also by Senator Schwertner, which would require new medical schools to also offer new graduate medical education (GME) positions. TMA testified in February about the importance of having GME slots keep pace with medical school graduates needing a place to continue their study.

Cyber Crime: The Senate Criminal Justice Committee scheduled a hearing on House Bill 9 for today, related to fighting cyber crime. The bill by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) would combat the malware and ransomware issues physicians increasingly face. Criminals use the software to intentionally interrupt or suspend access to a computer system or network. TMA supports this bill. 


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.

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


The physician of the day at the Capitol is Jennefer Sutton, MD, of San Antonio. Dr. Sutton graduated from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. She is a member of TMA and the Bexar County Medical Society.


Thursday shaping up as a key showdown day in Texas LegislatureHouston Chronicle 

Texas budget negotiations turn to higher education as a deal inches nearerThe Texas Tribune

Big health gains in Medicaid expansion states elude Texas’ poorHouston Chronicle

Senate committee passes texting while driving banThe Dallas Morning News


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