Time is starting to run out on the Texas Legislature’s 2021 session, but some of medicine’s most important priorities are in good shape on the road to becoming law. Monday is a big day for the Texas Medical Association in both chambers, as the House and Senate will each hear key bills on their respective floors.
The full House next week will take up the current version of the Senate’s 2022-23 budget in what’s expected to be a marathon session on the floor .
UNDER THE ROTUNDA
Start with House Bill 1445 by Rep. Tom Oliverson, MD (R-Cypress), which would prevent a tax on medical billing services. After passing the House on April 6, HB 1445 is on the Senate’s Local and Uncontested calendar for Monday. If it passes – as expected – it will become TMA’s first priority measure to pass the full legislature and head to the governor’s desk. If it’s ultimately signed into law, HB 1445 will protect both physicians and patients from ripple-effect costs.
Over on the House floor Monday, lawmakers will have the opportunity to approve House Bill 907 by Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Farmers Branch), which would generally ban insurers from requiring prior authorization on prescriptions to treat autoimmune diseases.
House approval of HB 907 would make it the first TMA-backed prior authorization measure this session to clear one chamber, but it would join several other medicine-supported bills that have already passed one house. Those include:
- House Bill 4 by Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo), which would permanently enshrine in Texas law some of the allowances for expanded telemedicine use that came in as a result of COVID-19, including payment for telemedicine services for Medicaid waiver programs and early childhood intervention.
- House Bill 133 by Rep. Toni Rose (D-Dallas) to provide 12 months of Medicaid coverage for pregnant women postpartum.
- House Bill 290 by Rep. Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio) to provide children on Medicaid with six months of continuous coverage, with a check on household income eligibility to grant an additional six months. Both HB 133 and SB 290 passed the House this week and at press time had not been referred to a Senate committee.
- Senate Bill 248 by Sen. Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas), which would create licensing requirements for retailers of e-cigarettes and related products, establishing a framework to regulate them similarly to other cigarette products. The bill has been referred to the House Ways & Means Committee, where TMA hopes to see it soon scheduled for a hearing.
- Senate Bill 672 by Sen. Dawn Buckingham, MD (R-Lakeway) to require payment for Medicaid behavioral health services that are classified as collaborative care. SB 672 is now awaiting a hearing in the House Human Services Committee.
On Thursday, the full House will dive into the dollars and arcana of Senate Bill 1, the upper chamber’s version of the biennial budget. TMA will keep a close eye in particular on discussions regarding funding for the state’s graduate medical education (GME) grant program.
As passed in the Senate earlier this month, SB 1 had allocated $199.1 million in funding for GME, the amount needed to maintain the preferred ratio of GME slots per medical school graduate. However, the House has since substituted its own funding allocation for GME, meting out significantly less at $157 million.
Once the House passes a version of SB 1, it’s likely Senate will not accept that version, requiring both chambers to supply members of a conference committee that will ultimately work it into a version for ultimate passage. TMA will continue to monitor the discussions to push for adequate GME funding in the final budget, as well as sufficient dollars for other crucial facets of the health care system, such as behavioral health.
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