TMA Legislative News Hotline: Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017

UNDER THE ROTUNDA

Texas legislators got down to business Wednesday, adopting procedural rules to govern proceedings in their respective chambers. 

The Texas Senate passed rules for the 2017 session that largely mirror the 2015 version, including a provision requiring support from just 19 senators before a bill can get a vote on the Senate floor (the “three-fifths rule,” requiring three-fifths of members’ approval). The Senate voted down a proposal that would have restored the “two-thirds rule” requiring 21 votes, which had been in place prior to last session. The current makeup of the Texas Senate is 20 Republicans and 11 Democrats.

The Texas House adopted its parliamentary rules as well, House Resolution 3, considering many amendments before doing so. One that drew considerable attention and debate would have required people in the Capitol to use bathrooms corresponding to their biological sex — an amendment that was challenged and ultimately withdrawn. But representatives adopted an amendment by Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin), to establish a breastfeeding/pumping space near the House Chamber for use by House members and staff, and credentialed media. In total, 28 amendments were filed but the majority of them were withdrawn or tabled.

Both bodies adjourned until Tuesday, which is common early in the session.

BUDGET

One budget note as lawmakers adjust to working with less revenue this session. Speaking at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Policy Orientation yesterday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick noted health care and education are the state’s two largest expenses, and they likely will face budget cuts. Earlier this week Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said legislators will have $104.87 billion in state general revenue funds to spend in the state’s next two-year budget, a 2.7 percent decrease from his estimate ahead of last session. TMA advocacy experts said that falls $4.13 billion below the ideal amount of $109 billion for lawmakers to spread across state priorities. 

TMA'S 2017 AGENDA

TMA’s 2017 legislative agenda includes priorities to help advance patient care in Texas. Tops on the list are the state budget, insurance reform, scope of practice, telemedicine, the Texas Medical Board, and public health priorities. Today we look at insurance.

Insurance — Balance or “Surprise” Billing

 Goal: To preserve a physician’s right to balance bill for out-of-network services while increasing accountability to the health plans for adequate networks. 

  • Increase patient awareness and responsibility through education prior to treatment, and expand the mediation process to circumstances where patients are receiving a surprise bill.
  • Hold insurance companies accountable for adequate networks and consumer information.
  • Provide the Texas Department of Insurance with the resources to police and hold accountable insurance companies on their network adequacy and better protect the consumer. 

For more details, see “Building on Success” in the January issue of Texas Medicine

TMA member physicians and medical students, and TMA Alliance members play a significant role in advancing medicine’s priorities at the Capitol. Here are some ways you can get involved: 

PHYSICIAN OF THE DAY

The physician of the day at the Capitol is Thomas David Greer, MD, of Henrietta. Dr. Greer graduated from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. He is a member of TMA and the Wichita-Archer-Baylor-Clay-Knox County Medical Society.

The Texas Academy of Family Physicians — with support from TMA and the Texas Department of State Health Services — names a physician to be in the Capitol every day legislators are in session. The physician of the day is introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives each day and his or her name becomes a permanent part of the official legislative record. 

 WHAT WE'RE READING  

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