Legislative Hotline Feb. 24, 2021: TMA (Virtually) Takes its Priorities to Washington
By Joey Berlin

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Coming off perhaps the biggest winter disaster in state history, the Texas Medical Association is working to make sure Washington, D.C., won’t freeze out Texas physicians and patients on their top legislative needs.

 As part of the American Medical Association’s National Advocacy Conference this week  TMA is engaging federal lawmakers on congressional legislative priorities, including:

  • Payment parity for telemedicine: As TMA attempts to advance payment parity for state-regulated plans through bills filed in the Texas Legislature, it’s simultaneously hoping to persuade Congress to make payment parity a priority for the vast majority of the insurance market; more than 80% of commercial insurance coverage is regulated under federal ERISA law. TMA is asking lawmakers in Washington to recognize that a covered service provided to an insured patient by a contracted physician should be paid at the contracted rate, whether the physician delivers the service in-person or through telemedicine. 
  • Stopping the sequester: Congress responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by delaying the planned Medicaid sequester, which would’ve resulted in a 2% cut to physician payments. As it stands now, that sequester moratorium will continue only through March 31. But medicine is asking Congress to support the Medicare Sequester COVID Moratorium Act, which would keep the moratorium in place throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency. TMA and others in organized medicine recently advocated for the bill, House Resolution 315, in a letter to House and Senate leadership
  • Meaningful coverage expansion for the uninsured: Although the Texas Legislature will examine ways to expand coverage to address the state’s nation-leading uninsured rate, TMA will ask congressional lawmakers to remain aware of the state legislature’s work on expansion, and be supportive of finding a solution. TMA has long advocated for a state-specific solution to expanding Medicaid.

FIRST TUESDAYS AT THE CAPITOL: March 2 

We’re just one week away from the next virtual First Tuesdays at the Capitol, your chance to learn about TMA's legislative priorities, what's happening at the Capitol impacting your practice and your patients, and steps you can take to make a difference. Join more than 200 of your colleagues via Zoom at noon on March 2. Hosted by TMA and the TMA Alliance.  

UNDER THE ROTUNDA

Medicine’s lights are still on: While last week’s winter storm threw the state into cold and chaos, there’s no indication yet that it will blow medicine’s agenda off-course at the Texas Legislature, TMA Vice President for Advocacy Dan Finch says. 

Gov. Greg Abbott responded to the disaster last week by emphasizing the need to reform the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), declaring it an emergency item for an already scaled-back, tightly focused session. But Mr. Finch isn’t concerned about ERCOT reform taking legislators’ attention off TMA’s top asks, such as telemedicine payment parity, preserving physician scope of practice, and improving the state’s vaccine registry.

“It’s fairly speculative” to think ERCOT reform would take attention away from medicine’s key issues, Mr. Finch said. “No bills have been referred yet. So it’s not like shutting them down for a week in February has actually caused them any particular angst.”

Appropriations subcommittees revealed: On Friday, Rep. Greg Bonnen, MD (R-Friendswood), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, revealed subcommittee assignments for this session, according to a memo obtained by the Quorum Report. For medicine, the most relevant subcommittee nods come for Article II, where lawmakers determine the state’s health and human services budget, and Article III, which metes out funding for education.

The Article II subcommittee’s chair and vice-chair, respectively, will be Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) and Rep. Toni Rose (D-Dallas).

The Article III subcommittee will be chaired by Rep. Terry Wilson (R-Marble Falls) and vice-chaired by Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood).

Easy Ways to Get Involved in TMA Advocacy  

Besides First Tuesdays, here are other ways to get involved in TMA’s grassroots advocacy efforts:

Stay up to date on TMA’s progress in the legislature. And take advantage of other opportunities to get involved with our advocacy efforts.

Last Updated On

February 25, 2021

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Joey Berlin

Associate Editor

(512) 370-1393
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Joey Berlin is associate editor of Texas Medicine. His previous work includes stints as a reporter and editor for various newspapers and publishing companies, and he’s covered everything from hard news to sports to workers’ compensation. Joey grew up in the Kansas City area and attended the University of Kansas. He lives in Austin.

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