UNDER THE ROTUNDA
Today is the 121st day of this session; nineteen days remain.
Here’s a status check of several bills important to medicine that continue to move through the legislative process:
- Senate Bill 752 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), which would provide liability protection for physicians who volunteer in the aftermath of a disaster, received unanimous approval on the House floor yesterday. It now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott for his signature. TMA strongly supports this bill.
- House Bill 1256 by Rep. Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), which would grant first responders and their employers access to first responders’ vaccination records on the statewide immunization registry during a disaster, passed out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee unanimously and heads to the Senate Local and Uncontested Calendar. TMA testified in support of this bill last month.
- House Bill 1418, also by Representative Phelan, would provide first responders and emergency services personnel with their immunization status when they seek certification or recertification. HB 1418 also passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee unanimously and heads to the Local and Uncontested Calendar. TMA testified in support of this bill last month. Presuming HB 1256 and HB 1418 are passed from the Senate Local and Consent Calendar, as expected, they will head to the governor for his signature.
- House Bill 3345 by Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo), which would allow physicians to choose the best platform for providing telemedicine services, rather than having health plans dictate the platform, received preliminary approval on the House floor yesterday. It awaits final approval, which should come this week. TMA strongly supports this bill.
- House Bill 2362 by Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso), which would create an exception to the willful and wanton emergency medical care standard if a physician or other health care provider negligently causes a stable patient to require emergency medical treatment, received preliminary approval on the House floor yesterday and awaits a final vote. After extensive negotiation and revision, TMA and the Texas Alliance for Patient Access agreed to support this bill.
- House Bill 1365 by Rep. Eddie Lucio, III (D-Brownsville), which would allow a physician to recommend low-THC cannabis for medical use by a patient with a variety of debilitating medical conditions, received final House approval 128-20 yesterday. The bill would require that the physician have proper knowledge concerning the medical use of the product as treatment for the patient’s specific condition, and that the physician maintain treatment and monitoring plans. HB 1365 now heads to the Senate. A similar measure, House Bill 3703 by Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth) won preliminary approval in the House this morning, 133-10. TMA is closely monitoring both of these bills.
- House Bill 1832 by Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Carrollton) – which would prohibit health plan coverage of an emergency care claim dependent on utilization review, protecting the prudent layperson standard – was voted out of the House 113-35 and heads to the Senate. TMA supports this bill.
- House Bill 2099 by Rep. Stan Lambert (R-Abilene), which would prohibit a health plan from changing a patient’s drug coverage upon plan renewal if the patient has been stable on that drug, received final approval 126-20 in the House and now heads to the Senate. TMA submitted written testimony in support of this bill in March.
If a bill hasn’t passed out of committee by now, it is likely dead for this session. But legislative zombies aren’t uncommon creatures. Bills that aren’t voted out of committee can be proposed as amendments to legislation that is moving, a strategy that is not always successful. Conventional wisdom among legislators is that if a bill couldn’t get out of committee, it must not be worthy to be an amendment.
The next major hurdles: House bills must have had their initial debate on the House floor by midnight, Thursday, May 9 – tomorrow.
Friday, May 10, is the deadline for the House to consider most House bills for their final debate. Bills on the House Local and Consent Calendar have more time. The Senate deadlines come later this month.
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 amendments. If you have a question about a specific bill, contact the advocacy team via the TMA Knowledge Center by email or call (800) 880-7955, Monday-Friday, 8:15 am to 5:15 pm CT.
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.
TMA’s 2019 legislative agenda includes priorities to help advance patient care in Texas.
At the top of 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:
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 Erica Swegler, MD, of Austin. Dr. Swegler graduated from the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston and is a member of both TMA and the Travis County Medical Society.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Texas House passes bill to vastly expand access to medical cannabis – The Texas Tribune
Despite measles outbreak, Texas vaccine exemptions up again – Houston Chronicle
Heart Problems Are Killing More Americans – Even Younger Ones. Here’s How to Reduce Your Risk – TIME
Catalyst Health Network Expands to East Texas, Adding More Than 100 Physicians – D CEO Healthcare
Texas lawmaker (and doctor) wants to study state’s physician shortage – KXAN-TV
For first time, US sees employed physicians outnumber self-employed, AMA study shows – Becker’s Hospital Review
Texas lawmaker calls vaccines 'sorcery,' verbally attacks prominent advocate – Houston Chronicle