2023 Legislative Wrap-Up: TMA Secured Big Wins With a New Strategy
TMA Priority: Protect physicians from being criminalized for the practice of medicine and keep nonmedical entities from interfering with patient care.
Physician-Led Results: Despite an onslaught of attempts by state government and corporate entities to undermine the patient-physician relationship, the Texas Medical Association successfully prevented any new measures criminalizing patient care this legislative session. In line with its top priorities, TMA kept these and other intrusions into the patient-physician relationship at bay, ensuring physicians can exercise their independent medical judgment to do what’s best for their patients and practices.
TMA Immediate Past President Gary Floyd, MD, acknowledged at the start of session that the practice of medicine in Texas had been complicated by recent major events, including the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization regarding abortion and state investigations into gender-affirming care.
While a number of bills addressed how care is delivered to patients, “we were successful holding off any civil and criminal penalties dealing with medicine,” Dr. Floyd told Texas Medicine.
He says such constraints are very concerning because they prevent physicians from exercising their medical judgment based on the best available evidence. TMA lobbyists and physician advocates will spend the interim educating lawmakers on the negative impact of similar legislation in future sessions.
TMA opposition also helped kill a bill that would have placed state penalties on physicians related to federal information-blocking rules, which govern patients’ access to electronic health information.
On the economic side, TMA prioritized upholding Texas’ ban on the corporate practice of medicine and succeeded.
To this end, TMA worked to improve Senate Bill 1534 by Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), and its companion, House Bill 3411 by Rep. Greg Bonnen, MD (R-Friendswood), striking a balance on the use of noncompete clauses that would work for both physician employers and employed physicians.
Although neither bill passed, TMA lobbyist Michelle Romero says the topic is likely to resurface next session.
In that respect, TMA helped lay the foundation for future fixes that will serve all Texas physicians, says Keller family physician Greg Fuller, MD, immediate past chair of TMA’s Council on Socioeconomics. He sees how unfair noncompete agreements hamper physicians’ careers and stymy patients’ access to care. But he also relies on noncompetes to protect his small practice’s investment in new hires.
“The compromise is going to be making sure that a noncompete is reasonable cost-wise, geography-wise, and time-wise,” he told Texas Medicine. “Completely getting rid of noncompetes is going to be harmful for small, independent physicians.”