The state’s 2020-21 budget, filed as House Bill 1 by Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond), took center stage on the House floor yesterday as deliberations on more than 300 pre-filed amendments continued into the wee hours of this morning. The bill passed without dissent early today.
One of the strictly enforced budget rules requires any additions to be offset by reductions elsewhere, which led several times to tense discourse on the House floor.
Some notable points from the marathon session:
- Representatives first passed their version of a supplemental spending bill, Senate Bill 500, to patch holes in the current two-year budget. Under that bill, several state agencies would receive $9.3 billion from all state funds, including $4.3 billion from the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF), or Rainy Day Fund. Included in this is $6.1 million to the State Board of Pharmacy for integration of and updates to the Prescription Monitoring Program, and $2.1 billion to fill a gap in the state’s Medicaid program, which lawmakers intentionally underfunded in 2017.
- Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) proposed an amendment to HB 1 that would provide $15 million to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage for women from 60 days to 12 months, contingent on the passage of House Bill 1110 by Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), or a similar measure. While this amount does not fully fund the expected cost, lawmakers supported finding additional funds elsewhere in the budget.
- Combined state graduate medical education (GME) support is $269.4 million, an increase of 34 percent from the current budget and the highest level ever.
- Included in Article XI, which is akin to a parking lot of issues for later discussion, are several items of importance to the house of medicine:
- The $500 million request for additional Medicaid payments to physicians.
- An additional $2 million for the Family Medicine Residency Program. This will not completely offset the nearly $7 million cut made in the current budget, but it’s a step in the right direction.
- An additional $2 million for the Mental Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program.
Article XI amendments will be discussed and deliberated by the House-Senate Conference Committee as the budget continues to take shape. If an item is not included in Article XI at this point, it most likely will not be included in the final negotiated budget.
After allocations from the Rainy Day Fund are taken into account, the fund will have a balance of $8.4 billion, well over the required minimum balance of $7.5 billion.
The Senate adjourned until Monday afternoon.
BILLS THAT ARE MOVING
Senate Bill 559 by Sen. Borris Miles (D-Houston) would establish a 30-day timeline for medical-records custodians to respond to Department of State Health Services records requests for patients who died while pregnant or who had been pregnant. It passed the Senate unanimously and awaits committee referral in the House.
GETTING A BILL MOVING
So far this session, lawmakers have filed 7,593 bills. TMA is monitoring 1,933 of them, although that will likely grow. 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. Sixty days remain until sine die.
BILLS OF NOTE
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 870 by Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo) would ensure that primary care physicians will be paid for telemedicine services provided through Medicaid. Senate Bill 760 by Sen. Dawn Buckingham, MD (R-Lakeway), the companion bill, passed the Senate unanimously yesterday and awaits committee referral in the House. TMA supports these bills.
- House Bill 871 by Representative Price would expand the use of telemedicine to rural trauma hospitals. 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
Part of your success as a physician is knowing your patients well so you can provide the care they need. The same is true with legislators: part of their success comes from knowing their constituents and the issues of concern to them. Make contact with your legislators repeatedly, and not just when you need them. Be credible and reasonable, and stay in touch with them during the interim. Get more tips in our Grassroots Advocacy Guide.
PHYSICIAN OF THE DAY
Today’s physician of the day is Diana Cook, MD, of Hutto. Dr. Cook graduated from the University of Florida College of Medicine, and is a member of both TMA and the Williamson County Medical Society.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Sexually transmitted diseases are rising in Dallas County, and we aren’t doing all we can to stop them [Opinion – Editorial] – The Dallas Morning News
Stop vaccine exemptions in Texas [Opinion – Editorial] – San Antonio Express-News
Even Doctors Want to Work Remote Now – Bloomberg News
What Happens if Obamacare Is Struck Down? – The New York Times
Audit: Disabled youth program sees scaled-back care, issues – The Associated Press
UT Tyler Launches New Pre-Med Academy – Tyler Morning Telegraph
The Texas budget is up for debate in the House. Here are four things to know. – The Texas Tribune