UNDER THE ROTUNDA
The final week of the Texas Legislature’s first called special session is ending, with the imperative bills finally passing. Here’s a quick update — more detail can be found in a previous Hotline.
The Senate version of the Texas Medical Board (TMB) Sunset bills — SB 20 (which extends the life of TMB) and Senate Bill 60 (which provides funding for the agency) — passed on third reading in the House today and are headed to the governor’s desk for signature. Just like yesterday, it was short and sweet, taking less than three minutes, with no discussion, debate, or opposition.
Without legislative action, TMB and the Medical Practice Act both would have expired Sept. 1, lurching Texas health care into chaos, uncertainty, unnecessary pain and suffering, and possibly avoidable deaths.
TMA launched the “Texas Health Care Doomsday Countdown Calendar” awareness campaign Monday to let the public know about the dire and shocking crisis ahead for our state if the legislature fails to pass a Sunset continuation bill for TMB. TMA thanks the House for responding to the extraordinary sense of urgency.
Here is some of the chaos that could have happened to the sacred delivery of patient care had we reached Texas Health Care Doomsday:
- Without licenses, doctors won’t be able to prescribe medicine and order all needed tests, or practice in hospitals or other facilities that require a state medical license.
- With no legal definition of what it takes to be a physician, anyone could open up shop and call himself or herself a doctor. The public would be exposed to and unprotected from medical quackery.
- Texas, which already has a physician shortage, could lose some of our doctors to other states.
The focus of state lawmakers now is completely on the 20 additional items Gov. Greg Abbott added to the special session agenda.
Senate Bill 11 by Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) and sponsored in the House by Rep. Greg Bonnen, MD (R-Friendswood), passed out of the House Committee on State Affairs yesterday. This legislation would restrict the application of do-not-resuscitate orders to competent patients when it is contrary to their wishes and death is not imminent. TMA previously has sought clarifications in the legislation to protect physicians who comply in good faith as well as to protect physicians’ right to uphold their moral conscience in complying with care demands. The complicated legislation has been discussed in numerous stakeholder negotiations and many different versions have been drafted and circulated.
TMA agreed on Wednesday to remain neutral on language that addressed many of the association’s major concerns.
The bill now must pass the full House by early next week to be acted on by the Senate prior to the Aug.16 end of the special session. It is scheduled for second reading on Saturday. Senator Perry has asked his Senate colleagues to concur quickly with changes made to SB 11 when it comes back across the rotunda so a conference committee can be avoided.
With limited time remaining in the special session, the pace of bill filing essentially has stopped. Nearly 580 have been introduced thus far in a condensed session with less than one week to go. TMA continues to actively monitor 133 of them as the special session rapidly wanes. Stay tuned for daily updates.
PHYSICIAN OF THE DAY
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.
WHAT WE’RE READING
House advances must-pass 'sunset' bills, braces for lively property-tax debate — The Dallas Morning News
Impasse broken, do-not-resuscitate bill advances — Austin American-Statesman
Health insurance gains elude many Texas women — Houston Chronicle
Trump says opioid crisis is a national emergency, pledges more money and attention — The Washington Post
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