Testimony by Arlo Weltge, MD
House Bill 752 by Rep. Morgan Meyer
May 2, 2017
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, I am Dr. Arlo Weltge. I am an emergency physician from Houston, and I speak on behalf of the Texas Medical Association and our more than 50,000 members in SUPPORT of House Bill 752.
First and foremost, HB 752 is about patient care. Physicians must maintain and exercise independent medical judgment when treating patients, and when a physician is employed, the employer’s interests sometimes may conflict with the physician’s interest in providing the most appropriate care to the patient. This bill ensures that the physician may advocate for patient care without fear of retribution from the physician’s employer.
It is important to point out that this bill will change nothing about a properly operating nonprofit health corporation (NPHC). The intent of the bill is only to address those NPHCs that retaliate against physicians who blow the whistle on violations, by establishing a complaint process with the Texas Medical Board.
TMA has heard anecdotally of instances in which NPHC policies, procedures, or other requirements interfere with a physician’s medical judgment. Because they lack protection against retaliation for reporting this kind of a violation, physicians in these circumstances — as it has been related to TMA — have simply moved on from employment at that NPHC.
While the physician’s immediate issue may be resolved when he or she leaves the NPHC, the underlying problem at the NPHC is not.
Current law requires the Texas Medical Board to receive and investigate complaints against licensees. But it does not require the board to receive and investigate complaints against the entities it certifies. This bill addresses that.
Patient care has always been the intent of this bill, and protecting physicians employed by these groups from retaliation when they advocate for patient care is a proper way of effecting that intent.
This bill is a modest step forward in protecting patients and allowing physicians access to a process for addressing real issues without fear of retaliation.
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