UNDER THE ROTUNDA
Today was the second of four First Tuesdays at the Capitol, and hundreds of Texas Medical Association and TMA Alliance members donned their white coats and visited with their legislators about issues important to the house of medicine.
In the House Insurance Committee, chaired by Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville), TMA president Doug Curran, MD, delivered testimony supporting House Bill 565 by Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston). HB 565 would expand Medicaid coverage for Texas’ working poor and ensure coverage for pre-existing conditions. TMA supports this bill.
“One in five uninsured children in the United States reside in Texas,” Dr. Curran said. “Children are less likely to have coverage when their parents are uninsured, so Texas’ rising rate of uninsured bodes ill for the health of the youngest Texans, who will grow up to be the state’s future workforce.”
On the other side of the rotunda, several TMA members were busy testifying before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Austin pediatrician Louis Appel, MD, testified in support of Senate Bill 355 by Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas), which directs the Department of Family and Protective Services to create a strategic plan so Texas can access new federal matching funds for services to help children at risk of entering foster care. TMA supports this bill.
Dr. Appel shared a story about two young siblings whom he treats, whose mother was quite young herself when they were born. The family continues to struggle, inspiring Dr. Appel to share some wisdom: “Prevention services provide cost savings to the state, give parents the support they need to care for children, and most importantly, give children a fair chance at a bright future.”
Noting the data reporting challenges that prompted the alarm about Texas’ maternal mortality and morbidity rates, TMA submitted written testimony in support of Senate Bill 559 by Sen. Borris Miles (D-Houston). SB 559 would establish a 30-day timeline for medical records custodians to respond to Department of State Health Services (DSHS) records requests for patients who died while pregnant or who had been pregnant within the preceding year.
Committee chair Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) authored Senate Bill 748, which would establish a dedicated general revenue account for newborn screening fees. DSHS cannot add conditions from the national Recommended Uniform Screening Panel without sufficient startup and maintenance funding. Houston neonatologist Charleta Guillory, MD, spoke in favor of the bill.
“We screen every newborn Texan baby twice for 53 separate disorders or conditions, any one of which could potentially lead to an early death or lifelong disability,” Dr. Guillory said. “However, by screening children at birth we have the ability through the miracle of modern medicine to change the developmental outcomes of these children and give many of them the opportunity to live productive, healthy lives.”
Eight full weeks into session — and just three days before the bill filing deadline – more than 4,700 bills have been filed. TMA is monitoring nearly 1,100 of them – in keeping with previous sessions’ rates of more than 20 percent of all bills filed.
BILLS OF NOTE
This list will change frequently during the session, but here are some bills TMA is watching now. Keep an eye on your email inbox for Action Alerts as we work to pass or kill bills.
- House Bill 2327 by Rep. Greg Bonnen, MD (R-Friendswood), would require health maintenance organizations to notify physicians and plan enrollees which procedures require prior authorization and what the process entails. Additionally, physicians whose prior authorization requests are routinely approved by health plans would be exempt from further prior authorization requirements if deemed appropriate by Texas Department of Insurance rules. Senate Bill 1186 by Sen. Dawn Buckingham, MD (R-Lakeway), is the companion. TMA supports these bills.
- House Bill 2387, also by Representative Bonnen, would require a utilization review program to be directed by a physician licensed in Texas. Senate Bill 1187, by Senator Buckingham, is the companion. TMA supports these bills.
- House Bill 2733 by Rep. Phil Stephenson (R-Wharton) would expand chiropractors’ current statutory scope of “musculoskeletal” to “neuromusculoskeletal,” an unnecessary and unwise expansion. TMA strongly opposes this bill.
- House Bill 2408 by Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Carrollton) disallows prior authorization requirements for state-mandated health plan benefits, such as mammograms and prostate cancer screening. TMA supports this bill.
HEALTHY VISION 2025
Healthy Vision 2025 – released in late January – is TMA’s all-inclusive, health care roadmap for legislators.
Want to help spread and promote TMA’s Healthy Vision for Texas? Become a TMA social media ambassador.
TODAY’S GRASSROOTS ADVOCACY TIP
When contacting your legislator, remember to be specific about the action you need, such as, “vote yes on HB10.” Remember that every constituent contacting a legislator thinks his or her issue is the most important, so sharing facts or a memorable story as part of your communication will have more staying power than a simple action request. Get more tips in our Grassroots Advocacy Guide.
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.
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:
- Tell your senator and representative why you oppose independent practice for APRNs.
- Register for First Tuesdays at the Capitol – there are two left;
- 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
Today’s physician of the day is James King, MD, of Galveston. Dr. King graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine and is a member of the Brazoria County Medical Society.
WHAT WE’RE READING
The health care crisis Texas isn’t talking about [Opinion] – Houston Chronicle
‘Gotcha!’ Surprise medical bills game the system [Opinion – Op Ed] – San Antonio Express-News
Texas Lawmakers Take Aim At Surprise Medical Bills – KUT, NPR, Kaiser Health News
Silver health plans set stiffer cost-sharing on drugs than employer plans – Modern Healthcare
How Texas and Longhorns Are Tackling Maternal Mortality in Texas – The Alcalde
The Opioid Dilemma: Saving Lives in the Long Run Can Take Lives in the Short Run – The New York Times
Physician Burnout: A Shrinking Problem? – MedPage Today
Look abroad to solve Texas’ primary-care doctor shortage [Opinion – Op Ed] – Waco Tribune-Herald
Why does it take so long to get a doctor’s appointment? – Fort Worth Star-Telegram
New Texas bill would create easier path for vaccine exemptions in public schools – FOX News
State lawmakers pushing for laxer vaccine rules despite measles outbreaks – Politico