January 2, 2019
The Bottom Line: The Texas Medical Association outlines its legislative priorities and solutions to improve health care for the 86th session of the Texas Legislature, which begins next week. Texas physicians say they are ready to fight for their patients in the upcoming session.
The political landscape has changed, but many of the health care issues hotly debated two years ago are back on the table for the upcoming 86th session of the Texas Legislature. The Texas Medical Association’s (TMA’s) goal: persuade legislators to improve Texas laws for patients and their physicians. TMA’s agenda priorities, as reported in TMA’s Texas Medicine magazine, include Medicaid improvements, better coverage for women during pregnancy and after giving birth, appropriate insurers’ accountability for the products they sell, and more funding for community mental health.
Medicaid and CHIP — When the state budget battle begins, TMA will focus on securing more funding for physicians to treat Medicaid patients and to revitalize Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) physician networks, according to Jason Terk, MD, chair of TMA’s Council on Legislation. For nearly two decades, Medicaid’s low payment rates have pushed many physicians out of the program. In the 2016 TMA Physician Survey, 60 percent of physicians said they did not treat Medicaid managed care patients because payment was too low to cover the cost of providing services.
“It’s always a food fight. But I expect it,” the Keller pediatrician said of the anticipated challenge. “In years past, of course, we have always supported improvement in payment rates. But I think that there’s a little bit different dynamic now, [such] that we potentially have a higher chance of getting some substantive improvement this year.”
Maternal health — TMA also will urge lawmakers to enact additional Medicaid reforms to protect new mothers. Last session, the state authorized the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force to study the maternal health crisis in Texas. Currently, Medicaid covers low-income women for only two months after the birth of a child. The task force and TMA recommend that Texas apply for a federal waiver that would extend coverage to one year.
“We know that moms are at risk during that first year afterwards,” said TMA President Douglas W. Curran, MD. “So just increasing availability of services and care is going to make an enormous difference in outcomes.”
Other priorities — The issues important to Texas medicine face an uphill battle as the Texas House and Senate consider thousands of bills addressing other priorities, including public school finance reform, Hurricane Harvey relief, state infrastructure needs, and lowering property taxes.
TMA’s additional agenda priorities for a healthier Texas include:
“Texas physicians look forward to a continued dialogue with our lawmakers so that we reduce costly red tape, streamline the health care process, and improve coverage and access for all Texans,” said Dr. Curran.
TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 52,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 110 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.
Editor’s note: TMA will list the most recent TMA legislative testimonies in the TMA Newsroom. Find a comprehensive list of all physicians’ testimonies this session on the TMA website’s Texas Legislature advocacy page.
Contact: Brent Annear (512) 370-1381; cell: (512) 656-7320; email: brent.annear[at]texmed[dot]org
Marcus Cooper (512) 370-1382; cell: (512) 650-5336; email: marcus.cooper[at]texmed[dot]org
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