UNDER THE ROTUNDA
In what are likely the last of its early-session ceremonial floor gatherings, the Texas House and Senate met briefly yesterday and the House adjourned until Monday afternoon. The Senate recessed until tomorrow morning to refer bills to committee and will then adjourn until Tuesday morning. Both will be back in time for the Texas Medical Association’s first First Tuesdays at the Capitol of the session.
The Legislative Budget Board yesterday gave the House Appropriations Committee an overview of the detailed formulas that comprise funding requests for Medicaid in the 2020-21 draft state budget. Those formulas are expected to cover caseload growth, though not necessarily cost growth, which can’t be completely known ahead of time. Also addressed were mental health, school safety, and Child Protective Services.
In other House news, Rep. Tom Oliverson, MD (R-Cypress) was appointed to the House Republican Caucus’ Policy Committee, which is tasked with making policy recommendations throughout the session to assist House members with their floor votes.
The Senate Finance Committee will hear testimony on the Texas Medical Board and other health care agencies on Monday. Invited testimony for Article II – all Health and Human Service-related agencies – will be presented Tuesday. We will bring you updates as they are available.
Three full weeks into session, bill filing continues as the March 8 filing deadline nears. The current count is more than 1,830 bills filed. The Texas Medical Association is monitoring nearly 400 of them – in keeping with previous sessions’ rates of more than 20 percent of all bills filed. Five weeks remain for bills to be filed — the rate of filing likely will accelerate as time runs down.
HEALTHY VISION 2025
Today, TMA focuses on its legislative plans to hold health insurance companies accountable for what they sell. “My responsibility as a patient’s physician is to know the risks of administering anesthesia, not administering their personal insurance plan,” said TMA board member and Beaumont anesthesiologist Ray Callas, MD.
Healthy Vision 2025 – released this week – seeks to draw a health insurance reform roadmap for legislators. Recommendations include:
Protect physicians’ rights to set their charges and collect outstanding balances;
- Support the continued use of mediation for patients to resolve surprise bills;
- Require health plans to create and maintain adequate networks;
- Require health insurance companies and their agents to explain in plain language exactly what a patient’s health plan will and won’t cover, as well as the patient’s financial responsibility, before they purchase a policy;
- Prohibit insurance plans and pharmacy benefit managers from switching patients’ prescription drugs for non-medical reasons; and
- Prohibit plans from terminating physician contracts without cause.
Want to help spread and promote TMA’s Healthy Vision for Texas? Become a TMA social media ambassador.
RECOGNIZING THE REMARKABLE DON READ, MD
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the state Senate recognized and commended TMA Past President Don Read, MD, for his dedication to generations of patient-centered care in Texas. The proclamations, along with a flag flown over the Capitol, were presented to Dr. Read at TMA’s Winter Conference.
SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK REDUX
With committee assignments complete, bills will quickly get moving in the remaining 117 days of session. Different phases of the legislative process invite and require different kinds of participation. Review this quick refresher on how a bill becomes a law in Texas so you can be a more effective grassroots advocate for TMA.
ARE YOU A LEGISLATIVE JUNKIE?
If talk of bills and committees and backroom deals initiate tachycardia, you might want to join TMA Leading Advocates. It’s TMA’s exclusive Facebook group for legislative advocacy. Enjoy special features, news in advance, and a community of TMA members who are excited to talk about the Texas Legislature and medicine's advocacy priorities. This closed group is open only to TMA and TMA Alliance members, and TMA and county medical society staff. Join today.
TMA’s 2019 legislative agenda includes priorities to help advance patient care in Texas.
Top on the list are the state budget, insurance reform, scope of practice, maternal health, the Texas Medical Board and Medical Practice Act, and public health.
For more details, see “On Call at the Capitol” 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 help:
- Register for First Tuesdays at the Capitol – we’ll see you next week;
- Testify before a House or Senate committee;
- Learn more about TEXPAC, TMA’s bipartisan political action committee;
- When called to do so, respond to Grassroots Action Center alerts on specific bills via our new VoterVoice app; and/or
- Make sure you receive TMA’s Legislative News Hotline each day, via Texas Medicine Today. Here’s how: Just log in to the Edit My Interests page on your TMA profile. Ensure you get all the legislative updates by selecting "Health care issues in the Texas Legislature" as one of your Grassroots and Advocacy interests. TMA’s updates on the latest bills affecting medicine will arrive in your inbox as part of Texas Medicine Today at 2 pm each day lawmakers convene at the Capitol throughout Texas’ 86th legislative session.
PHYSICIAN OF THE DAY
Physician of the Day is a service the Texas Academy of Family Physicians (TAFP) provides the Texas Legislature. Each day the legislators are in session, the group names a physician to serve in the Capitol. This tradition started in 1971 and has continued every legislative session since, including special sessions. This program is organized by TAFP with support from TMA and the Texas Department of State Health Services. 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.
Today’s physician of the day is Traci French, MD, of Belton. Dr. French graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and is a member of TMA and the Bell County Medical Society.
WHAT WE’RE READING
The Texas Medical Association’s 2019 Legislative Priorities – D CEO Healthcare
Opioid Money Has Helped, But States Want More – Stateline
The startling toll on children who witness domestic violence is just not being understood – USA TODAY
California-based Pipeline Health expands in Dallas area, buys 22 stand-alone emergency rooms – The Dallas Morning News
Pflugerville mother claims ER didn’t have enough notepads for son’s pain prescription – CBS Austin
Old emails hold new clues to Coca-Cola and CDC’s controversial relationship – CNN
Congress takes on unexpected medical bills, sparking industry turf war – Politico