Senate Committee Unanimously Passes Bill to De-Fuse Youth E-Cigarette Use
By Joey Berlin



Houston pediatrician Lindy McGee, MD, represented TMA in this morning’s Senate Finance Committee hearing to explain one of TMA’s top public-health priorities this session: Reining in electronic cigarette use among Texas’ youth.

Her testimony was well received as the committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 248 by Sen. Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas), which would establish a framework for taxing e-cigarettes. The bill would require a person to obtain a permit from the state before selling those products.

Dr. McGee testified for TMA, the Texas Pediatric Society (TPS), and the Texas Public Health Coalition in support of the measure. In written testimony she noted that vaping puts adolescents at risk for e-cigarette or caping product use-associated lung injury, known as EVALI, and that teens who vape are more likely to become cigarette smokers than their non-vaping peers.

“Requiring permits for retailers and employing penalties for underage sales to regulate cigarette and tobacco products have been successful tools in decreasing the smoking rate among adolescents,” she wrote. “As e-cigarettes are both dangerous in their own right and a gateway to other tobacco products, the regulation and enforcement mechanisms for e-cigarettes should be the same as those for tobacco products. This bill takes important steps to recognize the serious health risks of vaping and to limit youth access to e-cigarettes.”

Coverage for children in Medicaid 

Dr. McGee pulled double duty for TMA on Tuesday, also testifying in support of House Bill 290 by Rep. Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio), which would provide children in Medicaid with 12 months of continuous coverage.

As Dr. McGee explained in written remarks to the House Human Services Committee, children covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program and commercial plans receive 12 months of coverage. But Texas Medicaid provides six months of coverage, followed by monthly eligibility in which parents must respond to onerous income checks.

“As a pediatrician, I know the value Medicaid coverage brings – everything from ensuring children get their vision and hearing checked to treating asthma to identifying mental health issues early. The value of Medicaid grows exponentially the longer a child has continuous coverage,” Dr. McGee wrote.

Her attempts to ensure children receive timely and medically appropriate care are “for naught if arbitrary red tape and government inefficiency cause a child to lose coverage,” she added. “Implementing two consecutive periods of six months’ continuous eligibility reduces physician practice burden.”

Dr. McGee’s testimony on HB 290 also represented TPS, the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, Texas Children’s Hospital, and the Texas chapter of the American College of Physicians Services.

Out-of-state telemedicine 

TMA sees telemedicine as a major part of the future of patient care, but has concerns and questions on a bill that would allow out-of-state practitioners to treat Texas patients via telemedicine, if  those practitioners have an active license and are authorized to perform that service in their own state.

Senate Bill 992, by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), was scheduled for a hearing today in the Senate Business & Commerce Committee..

A committee substitute for the original bill appears to create a complex registration process for physicians and other out-of-state practitioners who don’t have the licensure requirements asked of in-state physicians.

TMA Vice President for Advocacy Dan Finch testified on the bill, telling the committee this morning, “The practice of medicine … is not a right. It is a privilege granted to those who have the credentials, who have passed the tests, who understand and abide by the laws and rules of the state and are held accountable by their licensing agency.”

The registration process in the bill, Mr. Finch told the committee, “looks very similar to the licensure process. The only thing that would be different would be the out-of-state physician would not be required to take the medical jurisprudence course and pass the exam in order to understand the state law and state regulatory environment.”

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Last Updated On

March 31, 2021

Originally Published On

March 30, 2021

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E-Cigarettes | Texas legislation | Tobacco