House Approves Bill to Help Address Social Determinants of Health
By Joey Berlin

The Texas House of Representatives signed off on establishing a state office for health equity Wednesday morning, agreeing with medicine on the need for a new mechanism to address social determinants of health.

After a brief floor debate, House Bill 4139 by Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) passed the House, 77-51. The office for health equity would have the ability to “investigate and report on issues related to health and health access disparities among multicultural, ethnic disadvantaged, women’s health, age, language, and regional populations.” It can also work with local health authorities to collect and report data related to those disparities. It now heads to the Senate.

Busy Wednesday: ImmTrac2 (good) and pharmacist vaccinations (bad)

Scheduled for consideration later Wednesday were other measures on medicine’s radar, including one troubling scope-of-practice bill that prompted the Texas Medical Association to issue an Action Alert earlier this week.

TMA is strongly behind House Bill 4272 by Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth) to modernize the state’s immunization registry, ImmTrac2, by: streamlining patient consent barriers that impede electronic sharing; keeping disaster immunization records for at least seven years; and requiring the state to give people the chance to consent to keep the records beyond the seven-year point, as well as implement a portal for patients to withdraw their participation.

But also on the calendar was House Bill 678 by Rep. Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio), which would allow pharmacists to provide all vaccinations to children as young as 3 years old. Pediatricians fear the bill would diminish well-child visits. As of Wednesday morning, an Action Alert mobilizing opposition to HB 678 had resulted in about 200 TMA members sending messages to 86 House members.

Check out Friday’s Hotline for an update on how these bills fared on the floor.

Committee approves telemedicine payment parity bill

One of medicine’s prescriptions to maximize telemedicine in Texas – payment parity – came a step closer to reality Tuesday when the House Insurance Committee approved House Bill 980 by Rep. Arthur Fierro (D-El Paso).

HB 980 would enshrine in law what has been a TMA mantra for several years now: An insurer-covered health care service should be payable to physicians at the same rate, whether delivered via telemedicine or via a traditional in-person encounter. Payment parity became a temporary reality at both the state and federal levels as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and HB 980 would make it permanent – building on TMA-supported legislation from 2017 and 2019 to unlock the full potential of telemedicine.

HB 980 can now head to the House floor, and TMA will push to get it on the chamber’s calendar.

Broadband expansion heads to negotiations

Earlier this week, we reported that after passage by the Senate, House Bill 5 by Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), which would expand broadband access in Texas, was heading to the governor’s desk. Not so fast, as it turns out; the Senate amended HB 5 before passage, and the House didn’t agree with its changes. So, just like with the state budget, a conference committee will be required to reconcile the differences in the two versions.

HB 5 would create a state broadband development office, which, in turn, would create a program to award financial incentives, including grants and loans, for broadband service expansion. The bill defines minimum upload and download speeds for broadband service and targets broadband expansion in areas where less than 80% of addresses have access to those services.

Last Updated On

May 06, 2021

Originally Published On

May 05, 2021