March 12 Hotline: Bill Provides Liability Protections For Physicians During Disasters
By Jennifer Perkins



The Senate State Affairs Committee unanimously approved a bill Monday that would provide limited liability protections to volunteer physicians and other health care professionals who provide care during disasters in Texas.

Senate Bill 752 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) also would extend protections to the facilities that sponsor those health care professionals, except for cases of reckless criminal conduct or intentional, willful, or wanton misconduct.

A thorough situational evaluation taken in the wake of Hurricane Harvey revealed many opportunities for improvement, including how best to utilize the volunteer services of physicians and other health care professionals who rush into action to care for fellow Texans.

Houston emergency medicine physician Beau Briese, MD, on Monday shared a detailed account of the heroic efforts of volunteers in the initial hours after the hurricane made landfall in 2017, telling legislators that the emergency shelter at Houston’s NRG Stadium treated as many patients in three hours as the 444-bed Ben Taub Hospital treats in a day.

“With more hands at the ready, we can do even better when the next natural disaster strikes,” Dr. Briese told the committee.

The Texas Medical Association worked during the interim to educate and inform legislators of the liability restrictions placed on volunteer physicians.

The bill is now headed to the Senate Local Calendar, where it likely will be passed on consent.


The House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond), heard testimony yesterday on riders, or amendments, to the 2020-21 budget. Health and human services riders adopted Monday include:

  • Two riders on expanding access to and utilization of Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs) in an effort to remove the red tape that deters physicians and clinics from providing them. One approved rider would end the prohibition against transferring an unused LARC to another patient.
  • Tracking the percent of indigent patients receiving medication assisted treatment as part of their opioid-use treatment.
  • Requiring the Department of State Health Services to conduct a study on the costs to local and state health institutions for investigating and responding to vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks.

The budget still has many steps to go through, but getting riders added now greatly increases the odds they will be in the budget at the end of negotiations.


With a flurry of activity, the bill filing deadline has finally passed, and 7,434 bills were filed. TMA is monitoring 1,524 of them, although that will likely change. Bills must next be referred to committee before they can be heard on the floor and voted on by the full body. Then the process repeats in the other chamber. At this point, about one-third of House bills and two-thirds of Senate bills have been referred to committee for debate. Seventy-six days remain in this session, and they are guaranteed to be busy. 


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 2028 by Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Carrollton) would automatically enroll eligible mothers covered by CHIP Perinatal into the Healthy Texas Women (HTW) program. TMA supports this bill. 
  • House Bill 2029, also by Representative Johnson, would provide a list of area physicians, plus program benefits information, to mothers enrolled in HTW. TMA supports this bill. 
  • House Bill 1092 by Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington) would give prescribing authority to psychologists. Senate Bill 268 by Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) is the companion bill. TMA opposes these bills.  


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.


Today’s physician of the day is Michael McLeod, MD, of Victoria. Dr. McLeod graduated from UT Southwestern Medical School, and is a member of both TMA and the Dewitt-Lavaca County Medical Society.


Anti-vaxxer parents are unwelcome at more Dallas clinics amid latest measles scare – The Dallas Morning News

Measles case confirmed in Collin County is second for Dallas-Fort Worth, 11th statewide – The Dallas Morning News

2019 is shaping up to be the worst year for measles since ‘90s, CDC data show – The Washington Post

Suicide second leading cause of death for Texas youth – Houston Chronicle

‘It’s Kind of Crazy in a Developed Country’: Inside the Amputation Crisis in the Rio Grande Valley – Texas Observer

ROBERTS: Continue CPRIT cancer research funding [Opinion – Op Ed] – The Lufkin Daily News

Will Texas Legislators Finally Do Something About Surprise Medical Billing? [Opinion – Commentary] – Houston Press

Report: Texas foster kids left in state psychiatric hospitals for weeks or months – Austin American-Statesman

UT Health Center to triple residency program with hopes of adding more doctors in region – Tyler Morning Telegraph

Last Updated On

March 12, 2019

Originally Published On

March 12, 2019