Protecting Your Security: TMA-Improved Breach Notice Bill Passes House
By Joey Berlin

Sweating the details on a bill that would require public notifications of systems breaches, TMA helped improve the measure this week to ensure it won’t leave physicians open to further hacking, and the bill passed the Texas House of Representatives on Thursday.

House Bill 3746 by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) would require breach notification postings on the attorney general’s website, “excluding any sensitive personal information,” but TMA was concerned the bill didn’t go far enough to protect data security. So, medicine worked with both Representative Capriglione and Rep. Lynn Stucky (R-Denton), who introduced an amendment that requires that breach postings not contain “any information that may compromise the system security of a person.”

Following inclusion of the amendment, the bill passed Thursday morning 145-0.

Representative Stucky’s amendment would also require the attorney general to remove breach notifications from the website by the one-year mark from their posting, if the person required to submit the notification hasn’t reported any other breaches.

House Committee approves troubling “treat till transfer” bill

A TMA-opposed measure that could force physicians to keep a patient on life-sustaining treatment indefinitely – even if that treatment is causing the patient harm – made it out of the House Public Health Committee late Wednesday.

House Bill 2609 by Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound), which would require physicians and facilities to treat such patients until another facility agrees to take the patient, advanced out of the committee by a 7-2 vote.

Under the current Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA), if a medical ethics committee agrees with a patient’s care team that life-sustaining treatment is causing the patient harm, the facility has 10 days to find a transfer spot for the patient before it can withdraw the treatment without facing criminal or civil liability. The search for a transfer location often begins well before any formal proceeding.

TMA supports TADA as a proven, effective balancing tool between the wishes of patients and their families and the ethical considerations and judgment of physicians. But if either HB 2609 – or its companion, Senate Bill 917 by Rep. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) – becomes law, TMA is concerned physicians could be forced to provide medically inappropriate, harmful treatment for as long as it will sustain the patient’s life. Often, physicians and hospitals are unable to find another facility to take the patient.

As these bill negotiations continue, TMA will continue working to preserve physicians’ right to exercise their moral and ethical conscience in end-of-life matters.

TMA to Congress: Don’t Send Telemedicine on a Detour

Austin psychiatrist and internist Thomas Kim, MD, delivered tele-testimony to Washington, D.C., for TMA on Wednesday during a U.S. House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing on the future of telehealth.

Representing both TMA and Prism Health North Texas, the HIV-specialized health center where he’s chief behavioral health officer, Dr. Kim stressed to members of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee the importance “of a connected nation” through broadband. He asked the subcommittee to consider, however, that the nation’s broadband need goes beyond access.

“Parts of our country are without available service, but for the three-quarters of Medicare beneficiaries who live in urban areas, it’s an issue of under- or non-utilization rather than access,” Dr. Kim told the subcommittee. He advocated for a broadband development strategy that recognizes “the broader value of service beyond just health care” and considers better use of existing resources.

“Telehealth is about the right doctor with the right information at the right time,” he testified. “We know the delivery challenges we face, which typically trace back to patients too often having to wait until an issue is a crisis, resulting in higher costs and poorer outcomes. Technology-enabled care offers opportunities to mitigate or avoid crises.”

He noted the legislative history of telemedicine in Texas, which in the past two sessions has produced laws that both defined telemedicine as the practice of medicine and built on that foundation. Medicine in Texas, he noted, is now pushing for permanent payment parity between telemedicine services and the same services delivered in-person.

“Texas highlights that the long road to regulatory guidance can be developed without reinventing the wheel, and simple is preferable. To suggest a return to pre-pandemic complexities around rules or reimbursement would be akin to detouring a traveler onto a dirt road,” he told lawmakers. “No one would willingly choose this route, and any benefit from telehealth would likely be lost.”

The subcommittee hearing is posted on the House Ways and Means website. Dr. Kim’s testimony begins at about the 37:15 mark.

Just one First Tuesdays left  

Four days remain until the final First Tuesdays at the Capitol on May 4. By then, only 27 days will remain in this session. Register for free today to get an update from TMA’s lobby team on what issues and bills are still in play, and what you can do to help in the final stretch before the legislature adjourns.

TMA’s Grassroots Action Center is your go-to in May

The last few weeks of the legislative session are critical to the success of TMA’s advocacy efforts this year.

TMA’s Grassroots Action Center is where you will find the current status of priority bills TMA is tracking, April’s First Tuesdays at the Capitol presentation, and Action Alerts – urgent, time-sensitive requests for you to share your concerns and support with legislators. Lawmakers are more likely to read and remember a personalized story or anecdote about how the proposed legislation will affect you, your patients, and your practice – so be sure to include one when you respond to an Action Alert.

You can do all this from the convenience of the VoterVoice app on your phone.

The time is now to add your voice in support of medicine’s advocacy efforts. Your participation is a vital component of our legislative success. Become an advocate for the House of Medicine today.

Last Updated On

April 29, 2021

Originally Published On

April 29, 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