Charting Medicine's Statehouse Progress
Two years ago during the 2017 regular session, the Texas Legislature put the practice of medicine in the state in serious danger, failing to renew the Texas Medical Board (TMB) and the state’s Medical Practice Act. Among other potentially catastrophic side effects, having no medical board and no medical practice act would have meant anyone in Texas could call themselves a physician and practice medicine.
Doomsday was averted that year when Gov. Greg Abbott called a special session and lawmakers renewed TMB – but for only two years instead of 12, as is customary following the Sunset Advisory Commission’s intensive review of an agency.
This year, fortunately, TMA didn’t have to sound the doomsday alarm, as lawmakers got it done in the regular session. House Bill 1504 by Rep. Chris Paddie (R-Marshall) put TMB back on the standard 12-year sunset cycle, renewing the board through 2031.
The bill also mandates an expedited licensing process for out-of-state physicians and enforces timely removal of certain negative information from a physician’s TMB profile, such as when physicians defend themselves against board discipline. While not perfect, the legislation is still an improvement to existing law.
“There were amendments that we tried to get put on the bill that were unsuccessful, including ones that would require more fairness and transparency,” TMA lobbyist Dan Finch said. “Other changes we supported were met with some success, including how information is kept on the TMB website when a physician successfully defends his or her actions. However, the medical board has been reestablished for 12 years, and that in itself is a huge success – not to have it held hostage and not to have to go to special [session].”
TMB procedures were also part of House Bill 1532 by Rep. Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas), which protects employed physicians’ independent medical judgment and clinical autonomy by creating a process for them to file complaints with the TMB against non-profit health organizations – many of which are hospital-owned – and prohibits those organizations from retaliating against a physician who makes a good-faith complaint.
The bill requires health organizations to develop anti-retaliation policies by Dec. 31, 2019.
Tex Med. 2019;115(8):21
August 2019 Texas Medicine Contents
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