March 14 Hotline: Physicians Call For Stronger Texas Medical Board
By Jennifer Perkins

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UNDER THE ROTUNDA

Texas physicians on Wednesday urged lawmakers to support bills that would strengthen the Texas Medical Board (TMB), would help fetuses who were exposed to drugs and alcohol, and would protect certain children at day cares.

Austin ophthalmologist Michelle Berger, MD, spoke to the House Public Health Committee in favor of House Bill 1504 by Rep. Chris Paddie (R-Marshall), which is a replay of the TMB sunset bill that was held hostage late last session.

The recommendations outlined by Dr. Berger would strengthen the practice of medicine in Texas by expediting licensing, establishing guidelines on vacating orders, and maintaining accurate physician profiles by quickly removing outdated remedial plan actions.

“If you meet these criteria, please consider practicing in Texas,” Dr. Berger told lawmakers. “It’s a great place, and we need more physicians.”

San Antonio neonatologist John Isaac, MD, testified in support of House Bill 405 by Rep. Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio), which would designate June as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) Awareness Month.

Dr. Isaac told lawmakers that NAS is a serious condition caused by the sudden discontinuation of fetal exposure to substances, including alcohol or illicit drugs that were used or abused by the mother during pregnancy. Between 2010 and 2014, NAS rates in Texas increased by 51.3 percent, Dr. Isaac said, illustrating the urgent need for increased recognition of the condition.

House Bill 1849 by Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth) would permit day-care centers to possess and administer epinephrine auto-injectors that are prescribed to the centers by a physician. The bill would also require day-care centers that keep epinephrine injections on hand to train personnel who will administer them to children. TMA submitted written testimony in support of HB 1849.

These bills are pending in committee and will be voted on at a later time.

In the other chamber, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 500 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), which, for the biennium ending Aug. 31, appropriates: $2.1 billion in general funds to cover the Medicaid shortfall due to caseload growth that couldn’t be anticipated; $300 million from the Rainy Day Fund for improvements to state hospital facilities; and $110 million from the Rainy Day Fund to repay Medicaid money that had been transferred to Hurricane Harvey disaster assistance programs.

Earlier this week, Austin pediatrician Kimberly Avila Edwards, MD, testified in support of Senate Bill 952 by Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin), which would require that child-care facilities’ physical activity, nutrition, and screen time rules comply with American Academy of Pediatrics standards.

BILLS THAT ARE MOVING

Last week, TMA testified in support of House Bill 1065 by Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), which would create a grant program for the development of rural training tracks to prepare physicians for practice in rural, underserved settings. HB 1065 passed out of the House Higher Education Committee and awaits an assigned date to be heard on the House floor.

GETTING A BILL MOVING

With a flurry of activity, the bill filing deadline finally passed, and lawmakers filed 7,480 bills. TMA is monitoring 1,658 of them, although that will likely change. Bills must 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. Bill referral should be complete this week. Seventy-four days remain in this session.

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. 

  • Senate Bill 1591 by Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) would require health plans to pay out-of-network physicians a fair amount, based on objective standards, while a bill is in dispute. The measure also requires the physician and insurer to come to an agreement with an arbitrator using fair market values as a benchmark. House Bill 2967 by Rep. Tom Oliverson, MD (R-Cypress) is the companion. TMA supports these bills. 
  • House Bill 1418 by Rep. Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) would establish a system to periodically inform first responders of their vaccination status so there’s no question or confusion when they respond to a disaster. TMA supports this bill. 
  • House Bill 1292 by Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo) would direct the Department of State Health Services and the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force to develop and implement initiatives to improve the health of women with opioid-use disorder and newborns with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. Senate Bill 436 by Senator Nelson is the companion. TMA supports these bills.   

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.

TAKE ACTION

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 Sherri Onyiego, MD, of Houston. Dr. Onyiego graduated from the Ross University School of Medicine in Barbados, and is a member of the Harris County Medical Society.

WHAT WE’RE READING

Property tax proposal piles one more worry on Texas’ rural hospital districts – The Texas Tribune

Texas lawmakers look to Uber, Lyft to transport Medicaid patients – San Antonio Express-News, Houston Chronicle

Dallas doctors are right to turn away unvaccinated kids, for the health of every kid [Opinion – Editorial] – The Dallas Morning News

Why the Canceled Baylor-Memorial Merger Might Be Good For Hospital Quality and Cost – D CEO Healthcare

McAllen pledges $1 million to UTRGV medical school – The Monitor

UnitedHealthcare Will Expand a Drug Discount Aimed at Lowering Consumer Costs – The New York Times

Trump Medicaid budget plan could leave states and enrollees hanging – Modern Healthcare

Last Updated On

March 14, 2019

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Jennifer Perkins

Advocacy Communication Manager

(512) 370-1469
Jennifer Perkins

Jennifer Perkins, a native Texan and University of Texas Longhorn, has worked in politics, public affairs, and advocacy for more than two decades, covering a litany of subject areas and a number of states, using a marketing-oriented communications style as informed by her MBA. Jennifer has two dogs, is a college football fanatic, loves to entertain, and prefers to be outdoors..

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