TMA Legislative News Hotline: Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017


Today TMA expressed “grave concern” over funding for public health infrastructure. 

TMA urged the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article II to fund the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) adequately, particularly the department’s key exceptional item requests: ensuring basic public health capacity, strengthening the state public health laboratory, and preventing and controlling the spread of infectious diseases.

“We must express grave concern with the proposed budget and its potential impact on public health at the state and local level. We can detail concerns about proposed chronic-disease budget reductions in several key areas of particular interest to the medical community,” TMA’s testimony reads. “This is the time to secure the department’s critical role in protecting public health capacity and infrastructure for activities like ensuring children and pregnant women are vaccinated and protected from preventable diseases.”

The testimony, submitted by TMA along with the Texas Public Health Coalition (TPHC) and five medical specialty societies, urges support of infrastructure and adequate state clinical staffing that communicates with local physicians. This is needed to respond properly to infectious disease outbreaks and other public health threats, chronic disease threats, and prevention efforts like tobacco control.

“Physicians are joined in the understanding that investing in evidence-based public health interventions is the only way to help us ensure there is not an even higher price tag in the future,” the testimony reads. “Texas’ exploding population in our large and mobile state means we need to not only maintain our current public health system, but also seek improvements and enhancements to respond to the problems raised as our state and population continues to grow.”

Graduate Medical Education: In the midst of hearing comments on graduate medical education (GME) by Texas medical school presidents and leaders Wednesday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article III heard from someone on the front lines — a medical student.

Kayla Riggs, a University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston medical student, asked legislators to adequately fund the GME positions that have been created through state grants.

Ms. Riggs, a TMA Board of Trustees member, testified that Texas will add more than 300 medical school graduates by 2022, and residency slots must keep pace. If those Texas students cannot stay in Texas, they’ll look out of state but might still face difficulties. 

“There also are no guarantees they will be able to find a training position elsewhere because the shortage of entry-level GME positions is a national crisis,” her written testimony says. “If training positions are not available, these graduates ultimately will be delayed in entering practice or in a worst case scenario, will be forced to forego a career in medicine.”

“Selecting a residency is one of the most difficult decisions a physician makes,” Ms. Riggs told legislators, adding many factors go into the decision. If only limited opportunities are offered, however, many residents will have to go elsewhere — and as you know when a physician leaves the state for training, 40 percent do not return to the state.”

TMA’s written testimony noted these chief areas of concern for 2018-19 funding: (1) the need for sustained state support for GME positions previously developed using GME expansion grant funds; (2) the gaps between the number of newly created GME positions since 2014 and the number of additional positions needed to keep pace with growing medical school graduates, and also in meeting the state’s target ratio of 1.1 entry-level GME position per Texas medical school graduate; and (3) proposed reductions to special item funding for medical schools and health-related institutions (for medical education, GME, and research programs at Texas medical schools and health-related institutions). 

“Thank you for your powerful testimony; you’re exactly what we’re trying to do,” Chair Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) told Ms. Riggs. “Means a lot, to all of us on the committee.”


“Parents Right to Know” Bills Filed: Wednesday two lawmakers filed bills to advance a TMA and Texas Public Health Coalition legislative priority — the “Parents Right to Know” legislation. Rep. J.D. Sheffield, DO (R-Gatesville), filed House Bill 2249, and Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) filed Senate Bill 1010. The bills would allow parents to see the aggregated vaccination rates of students in Texas schools, which the state currently only publicizes on a district-wide basis. Texas collects student vaccine opt-out data on school-level data, however. The bills are important to parents of immunocompromised children since knowing the vaccination rates in schools would empower parents to protect their young ones by placing their child at a campus with higher vaccination rates.

Child Protective Services: Wednesday the Senate Health and Human Services Committee took a significant step toward answering one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s emergency legislative priorities Wednesday, by unanimously approving a Child Protective Services overhaul bill, the Committee Substitute to Senate Bill 11. The committee approved the measure on a 9-0 vote. Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), the TMA physician-member committee chair, is the bill’s lead author. 

The measure would improve how the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services takes care of abused and neglected children, including ensuring children entering the system would receive medical exams within three days.


Now is your chance to make your voice heard at the Capitol. Register now to attend TMA's second First Tuesdays at the Capitoln event of the session, on March 7. And you can brush up on TMA's “2017 Prescription to Keep Texas Healthy” legislative agenda before coming to Austin, as it summarizes TMA’s top priority issues.


The physician of the day at the Capitol is Terence Chang, MD, of Houston. Dr. Chang graduated from The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. He is a member of TMA and the Harris County Medical Society.



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