UNDER THE ROTUNDA
As debate and deliberations have shifted from committees to the floor of each chamber, two of the Texas Medical Association’s priority bills have had their turn in the spotlight: continuation of the Texas Medical Board (TMB) and balance billing.
Yesterday, the House gave preliminary approval on a voice vote to an amended TMB Sunset Bill – House Bill 1504 by Rep. Chris Paddie (R-Marshall) – which would extend TMB for another 12 years.
State agencies and programs must be reviewed by the Sunset Advisory Commission at least once every 12 years and, unless the legislature continues the agency, it is abolished.
Presuming HB 1504 passes third reading today, TMA’s efforts would shift to Sen. Robert Nichols’ (R-Jacksonville) Senate Bill 610, the Senate companion, where TMA will seek clarification on expedited licensing, vacating orders, and physician public profile cleanup.
Also yesterday, the Senate 29-2 passed an amended Senate Bill 1264 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), which would require baseball-style arbitration for most surprise medical bills.
TMA members Sen. Donna Campbell, MD (R-New Braunfels) and Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown) dissented, indicating the bill is still a work in progress.
TMA will continue to work with Rep. Tom Oliverson, MD (R-Cypress) as the bill moves through the House on refining the portions of the bill that still require attention, including health plan accountability and regulatory enforcement.
BILLS THAT ARE MOVING
Yesterday, House Bill 39 by Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond) – which would repeal the 2023 sunset date for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and extend it by 10 years – won preliminary approval from the House with a vote of 125-18. TMA strongly supports this bill.
Also yesterday, House Joint Resolution 12 by Representative Zerwas, which proposes a constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to increase the maximum bond funding for CPRIT, received preliminary approval on the House floor with a vote of 130-15. CPRIT will exhaust its initial allotment of $3 billion by 2021; HJR 12 will replenish those funds. TMA strongly supports this bill.
House Bill 800 by Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) would direct the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to make contraception available to young women enrolled in the program. With a vote of 81-64, HB 800 received final approval on the House floor yesterday and heads to the Senate. TMA supports this bill.
House Bill 4068 by Rep. Michelle Beckley (D-Carrollton), which would require vaccination against bacterial meningitis for public school students, passed out of the House Public Health Committee on Monday and awaits scheduling for a House floor hearing. TMA supports this bill.
GETTING A BILL MOVING
TMA is monitoring 1,943 of the 7,731 bills filed this session. Bills must be voted out of committee before they can be heard on the floor and voted on by the full body. Then the process repeats in the other chamber. Bills in the House must be out of committee by May 6 to be considered by the Senate this session.
BILLS OF NOTE
Here are some bills TMA is watching. Keep an eye on your email inbox for Action Alerts as we work to pass or kill bills.
- House Bill 2032 by Rep. John Turner (D-Dallas) would establish a health literacy advisory committee that would include physician representation. The advisory committee must develop a long-term plan for increasing state health literacy, including a study on the economic impact of low health literacy. TMA is monitoring this bill.
- House Bill 3220 by Rep. Steve Allison (R-San Antonio) would add school psychologists to the list of health professions eligible for the State Mental Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program. The total loan repayment available is $10,000. TMA is monitoring 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
Just as patients need to receive the appropriate care at the appropriate time, communication with your legislator must be timely. Make sure you’ve organized your thoughts and arguments – on only one topic per letter – and you’ve sent it in advance of committee or floor debates. Your odds of having an impact are greater if you contact your legislators before their minds are made up. Get more tips in our Grassroots Advocacy Guide.
PHYSICIAN OF THE DAY
Today’s physician of the day is Katarina Lindley, DO, of Brock. Dr. Lindley graduated from Nova Southeastern University in Florida and is a member of the Parker County Medical Society.
WHAT WE’RE READING
For low-income people, employer health coverage is worse than ACA – Axios
Measles cases are up nearly 300% from last year. This is a global crisis [Opinion] – CNN
Tiger Woods’ road to the Masters Tournament went through a North Texas back treatment center – WFAA-TV
First-year trainee doctors spend little time on patient care – Reuters
One in five physicians use telehealth. Burnout may drive more adoption, survey says – FierceHealthcare
Round Rock students learning the dangers, harmful effects of vaping – KVUE-TV