Legislative Hotline: Done and Gone; Lawmakers Finish Overall Good Session for Medicine
By Jennifer Perkins

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UNDER THE ROTUNDA

Monday was the final day of the 86th Legislative session, when the House and Senate gaveled out sine die, which essentially means without a day specified for future meetings.

Technically, lawmakers only had one job during the 140-day session: To approve House Bill 1, by Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond), the state’s budget for 2020-21. HB1 was sent to Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Monday for certification, along with Senate Bill 500, by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), the supplemental spending bill to backfill deficits in the 2018-19 biennial budget.

Lawmakers filed more than 7,000 other bills, of which the Texas Medical Association tracked almost 2,000.

It will take a couple of days to fully digest all of the conference committee reports, corrections, and the voluminous budget.

In the meantime, here is a list of bills important to medicine that made it across the finish line during the closing weekend and will either head to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for signature or that he’s already signed. Sunday, June 16 is the deadline for Governor Abbott to sign or veto bills.

Tobacco and Cancer

  • Senate Bill 21 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) will raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco and vape products to 21 years, excluding active duty military.
  • House Bill 39 by Representative Zerwas, which will repeal the 2022 sunset date for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and extend it by 10 years, was signed by the governor May 24.

Maternal and Child Health

  • Senate Bill 750, by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) will improve maternal access to postpartum care through the Healthy Texas Women Program.
  • Senate Bill 749 by Senator Kolkhorst will establish level-of-care designations for hospitals that provide maternal and neonatal care.
  • House Bill 25 by Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint) will create a pilot program to streamline nonemergent medical transportation services in Medicaid and allow children to accompany their pregnant mothers on doctor’s visits
  • Senate Bill 355 by Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) directs the Department of Family and Protective Services to create a strategic plan so Texas can access new federal matching funds for services to help children at risk of entering foster care.
  • Senate Bill 952 by Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) will require that child care facilities’ physical activity, nutrition, and screen time rules comply with American Academy of Pediatrics standards.
  • House Bill 455 by Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston) directs the State Board of Education to develop recess policies that encourage outdoor playtime and physical activity.
  • House Bill 448 by Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie) will require transporting a child younger than 2 in a rear-facing car seat unless the child meets certain height and weight thresholds. 

Insurance

  • Senate Bill 1264 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) will require baseball-style arbitration for most surprise medical bills, removing the patient from the billing dispute and resolution process.
  • Senate Bill 1742 by Sen. Jose Menéndez (D-San Antonio) will require health plan directories to clearly identify which physician specialties are in network at network facilities. It also will require greater transparency with prior authorizations and it mandates that utilization reviews be conducted by a physician in the same or similar specialty as the physician requesting approval for a treatment. TMA is urging physicians to contact Governor Abbott and ask him to sign SB 1742. 
  • House Bill 1941 by Rep. Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) will prohibit free-standing emergency facilities from charging “unconscionable” rates, defined as 200 percent or more of the average charge for the same or substantially similar treatment at a hospital emergency room.
  • House Bill 2536 by Rep. Tom Oliverson, MD (R-Cypress) will require vastly improved transparency regarding prescription drug costs.
  • House Bill 1584 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) will prohibit step therapy protocols for stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.
  • House Bill 2041 by Representative Oliverson will require freestanding emergency room facilities to post conspicuous notices that the facility or the physician might be out of network, along with written disclosure of possible observation and facility fees.
  • House Bill 3041 by Representative Turner will allow for renewal of a prior authorization if it expires before the patient receives the medical service or procedure.
  • House Bill 170 by Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) will require health plans to cover diagnostic mammograms at 100%, the same as screening mammograms. 

Texas Medical Board/Professional Liability

  • House Bill 1504 by Rep. Chris Paddie (R-Marshall), the Texas Medical Board (TMB) Sunset bill, will extend the TMB for another 12 years.
  • House Bill 1532 by Rep. Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas), will create a complaint process at the TMB for employed physicians to use.
  • House Bill 2362 by Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) will create an exception to the willful and wanton emergency medical care standard if a physician or health care provider negligently causes a stable patient to require emergency medical treatment.

Prescription Monitoring Program/Opioids

  • House Bill 2174 by Representative Zerwas will help physicians address the opioid crisis by limiting the duration of opioid prescriptions, require electronic prescribing after Jan. 1, 2021, require opioid-related CME, and specify that prior authorization is prohibited for medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder.
  • House Bill 3284 by Rep. J.D. Sheffield, DO (R-Gatesville) will delay the mandate to check the prescription monitoring program until March 2020 and will require electronic prescribing of opioids unless a waiver is granted.
  • House Bill 3285 by Representative Sheffield will permit telehealth treatment for substance use, develop and implement an opioid misuse public awareness campaign, and collect and analyze data regarding opioid overdose deaths.
  • Senate Bill 1564 by Senator West will provide Medicaid coverage for medication-assisted treatment.
  • House Bill 2088 by Rep. Jay Dean (R-Longview) will require health care professionals dispensing controlled substance prescriptions to provide written notice of the closest safe disposal location and other safe disposal methods available.  

 Cannabis 

  • House Bill 3703 by Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth) will allow a physician to recommend low-THC cannabis for medical use by a patient with a variety of debilitating medical conditions.

Medicaid

  • Senate Bill 1207 by Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) will require more explicit prior authorization denial notices and establish an explicit goal to reduce the overall number of prior authorizations in Medicaid.
  • Senate Bill 670 by Sen. Dawn Buckingham, MD (R-Lakeway) will would require Medicaid to cover telemedicine services.

Mental Health

  • Senate Bill 11 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) addresses school safety, including substance use and mental health services.

Telemedicine

  • House Bill 1063 by Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo) will require Medicaid to cover home telemonitoring for specific pediatric patients.
  • House Bill 3345 by Representative Price will allow physicians to choose the best platform for providing telemedicine services rather than having health plans dictate the platform. 

Public Health/Long-Term Care

  • Senate Bill 1519 by Senator Kolkhorst will establish a statewide council on long-term care facilities.
  • House Bill 1418, Representative Phelan, which will provide first responders and emergency services personnel with their immunization status when they seek certification or recertification, was signed by the governor.
  • House Bill 1848 by Representative Klick will establish infection control programs in long-term care facilities.
  • House Bill 2050 by Representative Paddie will require written consent for the administration of psychoactive drugs to long-term care facility residents.
  • Senate Bill 384 by Senator Nelson will require all health care facilities to report all health care-affiliated infections. 

Graduate Medical Education/Workforce

  • House Bill 1065 by Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) will create a grant program to develop residency training tracks to prepare physicians for practice in rural, underserved settings.
  • House Bill 2261 by Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston) will increase the Physician Education Loan Repayment Program’s allowable repayment assistance amounts by $5,000 each year, bringing the total amount of repayment assistance available to $180,000.  

If you have a question about a specific bill from this legislative session, contact the advocacy team via the TMA Knowledge Center by email or call (800) 880-7955, Monday-Friday, 8:15 am to 5:15 pm CT. 

HEALTHY VISION 2025

Healthy Vision 2025 – released in late January – is TMA’s all-inclusive, health care roadmap for legislators during the interim session.

Want to help spread and promote TMA’s Healthy Vision for Texas? Become a TMA social media ambassador

WHAT WE’RE READING

DFW Airport visitors may have been exposed to measles this month, officials say – The Dallas Morning News

Texas on brink of banning surprise medical bills – Houston Chronicle

One In Four Texas Women Of Childbearing Age Doesn’t Have Health Insurance – KUT

Burgess cosponsors VACCINES Act to improve nation’s immunization rates – Ripon Advance

Officials fighting U.S. measles outbreaks threaten to use rare air travel ban – The Washington Post

Correction: This story has been edited to remove House Bill 2327 by Rep. Greg Bonnen, MD (R-Friendswood), from the list of bills headed to Governor Abbott's desk. The bill, which would have required both greater prior authorization transparency and that utilization reviews be conducted by a licensed Texas physician, did not make it out of the Senate. Many of the provisions of HB 2327, however, were added to Senate Bill 1742, which is awaiting the governor’s signature. TMA is urging physicians to contact Governor Abbott and ask him to sign SB 1742.

Last Updated On

May 29, 2019

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Jennifer Perkins

Advocacy Communication Manager

(512) 370-1469
Jennifer Perkins

Jennifer Perkins, a native Texan and University of Texas Longhorn, has worked in politics, public affairs, and advocacy for more than two decades, covering a litany of subject areas and a number of states, using a marketing-oriented communications style as informed by her MBA. Jennifer has two dogs, is a college football fanatic, loves to entertain, and prefers to be outdoors..

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