Legislators Back More Doctors for Texas
Charting the Texas Legislature: Education — August 2017
Tex Med. 2017;113(7):43.
By Sean Price
During the 85th legislative session, Texas lawmakers helped pave the way for two possible new medical schools, while ensuring that graduates have more options for residency positions.
House Bill 1913, authored by Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth), allows the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) to partner with Texas Christian University to set up an allopathic medical school in Fort Worth. The bill removed a restriction in state law that prohibited UNTHSC from operating an allopathic medical school while it also runs the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. The new medical school is scheduled to open in 2019.
The University of Houston was given the authority to study the need for an additional medical school in Houston, which is already home to McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center and Baylor College of Medicine.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 1066, authored by Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), requires that any medical school that plans to offer a medical degree must simultaneously provide a plan for ensuring there are sufficient graduate medical education (GME) positions for the expected graduates.
Steven Ray Hays, MD, chair of the Texas Medical Association's Council on Medical Education, says SB 1066 should help Texas retain the physicians who train in state. He says that 81 percent who complete both medical school and residency training in Texas then go on to practice here. That number drops to 60 percent for those who leave the state for residency. Given Texas' ongoing shortage of physicians, it's important to keep as many new doctors as possible.
"You make an investment, and in order to reap the benefits of that investment, you have to have the GME positions," Dr. Hays said.
In a related measure, lawmakers approved House Concurrent Resolution 102 by Rep. J.M. Lozano (R-Kingsville), which places a priority on providing a substantial increase in funding for GME before the state considers authorizing and supporting new medical schools. In this year's budget, lawmakers continued the past several sessions’ trend of increased GME spending. The new budget adds $41.22 million for GME in 2018–19, or 25.7 percent over 2016–17 levels.
Other education-related measures lawmakers approved include:
- Continued funding to support 11 medical schools, including the two schools that opened in 2016. An additional $59 million, an increase of 9.9 percent, was provided through the medical student formula funding process. This includes funding for 200 more medical students than during 2016–17.
- Reduced funding for the Family Practice Residency Program by $6.78 million, or 40 percent. This brought total funding down to $10 million.
- Directing the Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to conduct a study on the best method for enhancing state funding for GME through the Medicaid program, with a report due Dec. 1, 2018.
- Reduced funding for the State Physician Education Loan Repayment Program by $8.45 million, or 25 percent. This brought down total funding to $25.35 million.
- Continued funding for the Primary Care Preceptorship Program, at $3 million.
Sean Price can be reached by phone at (800) 880-1300, ext. 1392, or (512) 370-1392; by fax at (512) 370-1629; or by email.
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