UNDER THE ROTUNDA
Expanding access and payment for telemedicine services is a Texas Medical Association priority this session, and a bill that would improve physicians’ ability to serve their own patients electronically is making steady progress.
House Bill 3345 by Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo), which would allow physicians to choose the best platform to use for providing telemedicine services to their patients, rather than having health plans dictate the platform, is set for debate on the House floor today. It was voted unanimously out of the House Insurance Committee earlier this month. TMA strongly supports HB 3345.
State lawmakers made tremendous progress on telemedicine in 2017, passing a TMA-backed law that defines telemedicine as a way to deliver health care, not just a health care service. The law also clarifies that the standard for telemedicine is the same as an in-person visit.
Also on the House calendar today is House Bill 2174 by Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond), which would help physicians address the nationwide opioid crisis by taking steps to prevent “doctor shopping.”
TMA has worked with Representative Zerwas to modify the original bill, and the committee substitute that was heard on the House floor today incorporates changes sought by the house of medicine. Compared to the original version, the substitute:
- Raises the seven-day limit on opioid prescriptions to 10 days;
- Requires Schedule II drugs to be prescribed electronically beginning Jan. 1, 2021, which is when Medicare will implement the same requirement, with waivers for physicians who face economic hardship or technical limitations in meeting e-prescription requirements; and
- Requires physicians to complete two hours of opioid-related CME, which may count as ethics credit. This CME is required one time only.
TMA thanks Representative Zerwas and continues to support HB 2174.
TMA is monitoring 1,945 of the 7,751 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 – the day before our last First Tuesdays of this session – to be considered by the Senate this session.
As debate shifts from committees to chamber floors, the debate calendars will lengthen as hundreds of bills will be set for consideration each day. Committee meetings will bookend floor sessions and will start to run late into the night. Bills that haven’t yet moved out of committee may be proposed as amendments to legislation that is moving.
TMA is watching each bill, committee substitute, and amendment for any changes. It is not uncommon for revised legislation to prompt a revised position from TMA, particularly when bad bills become better bills through rewriting or amending them. If you have a question about a specific bill, contact the advocacy team in the TMA Knowledge Center by email or call (800) 880-7955, Monday-Friday, 8:15 am to 5:15 pm CT.
Below are a few TMA-supported bills continuing to move through the legislative process:
- Senate Bill 998 by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) – which would increase the physician education loan repayment program’s allowable repayment assistance amounts by $5,000 each year, bringing the total amount of repayment assistance available to $180,000 – was heard in the Senate Higher Education Committee today and left pending. House Bill 2261 by Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston), the companion bill, passed the House and awaits action in the Senate Higher Education Committee. Having both versions continue through the process is not uncommon.
- House Bill 2327 by Rep. Greg Bonnen, MD (R-Friendswood), which would require greater prior authorization transparency, was amended by Representative Zerwas so that it also requires that utilization reviews be conducted by a licensed Texas physician. HB 2327 won preliminary approval in the House yesterday without debate. TMA testified on this bill last month.
- House Bill 278 by Rep. Tom Oliverson, MD (R-Cypress), which would outline how physicians supervise prescriptive authority agreements with advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), passed unanimously out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee with a recommendation that it be set on the Senate Local and Uncontested Calendar.
- Senate Bill 1519 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) would establish a statewide council on long-term care facilities. In testimony earlier this month supporting the bill, TMA offered two improvements that were included in the version of bill that unanimously passed out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee yesterday. It will next be heard on the Senate floor.
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
All politics are local. Know your local legislators. Know if they’re Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. Know the committees on which they sit. Those few pieces of information will help you craft a message that will resonate more strongly with your legislator. Get more tips in our Grassroots Advocacy Guide.
PHYSICIAN OF THE DAY
Today’s physician of the day is Keith Miller, MD, of Center. Dr. Miller graduated from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and is a member of both TMA and the Shelby-Sabine County Medical Society.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Transparency necessary for health care pricing – Houston Chronicle
County Jails Struggle With A New Role As America’s Prime Centers For Opioid Detox – NPR
Disinformation is the new barrier to measles vaccines and it’s deadly: Rosalynn Carter – USA Today
Popular e-cigarette products contaminated with bacterial and fungal toxins, study finds – NBC News
Should the ‘Vaping Age’ Be 21? Drugstores and Lawmakers Say Yes – The New York Times
EHR programming reduced unnecessary GI testing by 46%, study finds – Becker’s Hospital Review