Texans can vote on Proposition 8, an amendment to the Texas Constitution that the Texas Medical Association supports as vital to telemedicine and remote patient monitoring services.
The 2023 Texas Legislature passed House Bill 9 by Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), which called for a constitutional amendment to supplement federal dollars to upgrade and expand broadband networks across the state. Prop 8, the answer to Representative Ashby’s call, aims to provide that funding, which also would prove critical for Texans to access high-quality, physician-led telehealth care.
Castroville family physician Mary Nguyen, MD, worries that if Prop 8 doesn’t pass, rural residents, patients without reliable transportation, or those unable to leave their homes will lose access-to-care options.
“As a rural physician, I often treat patients who lose internet connectivity mid appointment,” she said. “I even treated a patient who, despite being symptomatic of coronavirus, was forced to go into work and isolate in a back office just to have internet access for her telemedicine visit. I’m hopeful this proposition will increase access for those who really need it and [reduce] troubling stories like this one.”
If approved, the amendment would take effect on Jan. 1, 2024, and Texas would have almost $5 billion of collective federal and state dollars to expand internet access, says Michelle Romero, TMA’s associate vice president of public affairs.
But that money cannot be used by the Texas Legislature without voter approval, she cautions. If voters reject Prop 8, the $1.5 billion already set aside would remain unused.
Under HB 9, the broadband fund would be financed through money allocated by the state legislature, gifts, grants, and investment earnings, and then administered by the state comptroller. Money in the fund could be used in conjunction with federal aid or other state allocations for the purposes of the fund.
That federal aid could include the $3.3 billion the federal government granted to Texas earlier this year – the most significant award of any U.S. state – from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed in November. The grant was given to aid Texas’ fight to expand and upgrade broadband networks and will prove vital for virtual patient care, especially for those in rural designations – a charge bolstered by TMA’s ongoing advocacy in that area both at the state and federal levels.
In addition to HB 9, the Texas Legislature passed two pieces of TMA-backed legislation during the 2021 session:
- House Bill 4 by Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo), which made permanent pandemic-induced allowances for expanded telehealth payment in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, if the state determines those services are clinically sound and cost-effective; and
- House Bill 5, also by Representative Ashby, which established the Texas Broadband Development Office, which provides tools and resources to support the expansion of broadband access across the state.
On top of those successes, with additional broadband funding, Dr. Nguyen is “hopeful” some of her patients – especially those with severe disabilities – can “continue to be seen from where they’re most comfortable.”
For more information on Prop 8, visit Digital Texas’ Prop 8 website.
For more information on telemedicine vendor options, evaluation criteria, and more, visit TMA’s Telemedicine page.
Political advertising paid for by the Texas Medical Association