Legislative Hotline: Budget Talk; TMA Bills Advance Toward Passage
By Joey Berlin



Budget discussions at the Texas Capitol are looking better for the house of medicine than they did at the start of the legislature’s 2021 session. But physicians need to keep letting lawmakers know how important its priorities are for the state’s 2022-23 funding.

Both the House and Senate budget versions, as currently drafted, each have funding allocation victories for medicine that aren’t included in the other chamber’s version of the budget. The Texas Medical Association is keeping its magnifying glass on the development of both versions, hoping to make sure physicians ultimately get what they need to maintain and improve Texans’ health over the next two years.

On Tuesday, the Senate version of the state’s two-year budget will be up for consideration by the full chamber. As reported in Hotline last week, the Senate version currently allocates adequate funding to sustain the state’s graduate medical education (GME) grant program, providing nearly $200 million overall to maintain the target ratio of 10% more residency slots than medical school graduates.

That funding is the main advantage the Senate version has over the House’s current take on the budget, which offers significantly less GME funding (about $157 million). The House version also includes cuts to Medicaid of about $2 billion overall. However, for physicians who treat Medicaid’s youngest patients, the House version does include something those doctors haven’t seen for decades: A notable payment increase. Physicians who treat patients 3 years or younger would get a 7% payment bump under the House version, with a little under $70 million currently set aside for that increase.

The House budget draft is being considered by that chamber’s Appropriations Committee. Once both the House and Senate versions of the budget are passed, a conference committee must reconcile the two versions into one budget for 2022-23.

Tomorrow: Register for First Tuesdays at the Capitol

As budget talks continue, TMA needs you to be active in helping lawmakers understand medicine’s monetary needs. For a complete update from TMA’s lobby team on the budget and medicine’s other legislative priorities this session, register for tomorrow’s First Tuesdays at the Capitol. After the April 6 event, only one First Tuesdays remains this session: May 4.

TMA’s bills on the move 

A number of TMA’s priority measures have been voted out of committees, meaning they’re now eligible for consideration on the floor of the chamber where they originated. TMA-supported bills that have taken that important step include:

  • HB 4 by Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo) would make permanent some the allowances for expanded telemedicine use that were put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as payment for telemedicine for early childhood intervention services and Medicaid waiver programs.
  • HB 5 by Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) would provide for expanded broadband service across the state.
  • HB 907 by Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Carrollton) generally would bar prior authorization requirements on prescriptions for patients with autoimmune diseases.
  • HB 1445 by Rep. Tom Oliverson, MD (R-Cypress) would prevent a tax on medical billing services, thus preventing increased costs to physicians and patients.
  • SB 248 by Sen. Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas) would establish the framework for regulation on electronic cigarettes and vaping products, similar to other cigarette products.
  • SB 1490 by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), would strengthen the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s process by which it grants authorization to private, out-of-state medical and other professional schools to operate in Texas. The bill ensures the availability of clerkships for Texas medical school students.

Easy ways to get involved in TMA advocacy 

Your participation is a vital component of our legislative success. Join our advocacy efforts today.

Stay up to date on bills TMA is following closely. And take advantage of other opportunities to get involved with our advocacy efforts.

Last Updated On

April 13, 2021

Originally Published On

April 05, 2021

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Joey Berlin

Associate Editor

(512) 370-1393

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.

More stories by Joey Berlin