UNDER THE ROTUNDA
The House and Senate returned from the long weekend more impassioned than ever, with today’s most vigorous discussion occurring in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee over radically different approaches to immunizations.
Senate Bill 329 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), known as the Parents’ Right to Know Act, would require school districts to provide student vaccination rates at the campus level. A similar bill filed last session passed the House but never made it out of a Senate committee.
Austin pediatrician Mai Duong, MD, testified in support of the bill, pointing out that despite the availability of immunizations to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, pockets of under-vaccinated communities can lead to outbreaks, like what has been seen with measles recently.
“As a pediatrician, I am entrusted by parents to help protect their child’s health because children are often the most vulnerable to diseases and environmental threats,” said Dr. Duong. “Many of my patients have complex medical conditions that do not allow them to receive vaccinations. When they enter kindergarten, it’s important for their parents to have the information available to make informed decisions on enrollment.”
TMA strongly supports SB 329.
On the other hand, Senate Bill 2351 by Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) would prohibit physicians from restricting their practice based on a patient’s vaccination status. In addition, SB 2351 would prevent physicians from participating in Medicaid or CHIP if they restrict their practice to treating only vaccinated patients. Dr. Duong testified in strong opposition to this bill.
“Violation of this legislation would lead to removal of all state funding from a health care provider, including Medicaid and CHIP funding, undermining the ability of the low-income population to access care in their community,” Dr. Duong said. “Yet those who refuse to vaccinate tend to reside in higher income areas and utilize commercial insurance instead of qualifying for Medicaid or CHIP.”
The House-Senate budget conference committee held an organizational meeting today and will now delve into the intricacies of their respective plans for the state’s 2020-21 budget. TMA will submit written comments and recommendations on medicine’s priority items for committee members to consider as they negotiate the differences in the two chambers’ budgets bills.
TMA is monitoring 1,945 of the 7,751 bills filed this session. Bills must be voted out of committee before they can be heard on the floor and voted on by the full body. Then the process repeats in the other chamber. Bills in the House must be out of committee by May 6 – the day before our last First Tuesdays of this session – to be considered by the Senate this session.
As debate shifts from committees to chamber floors, the debate calendars will lengthen as hundreds of bills will be set for consideration each day. Committee meetings will bookend floor sessions and will start to run late into the night. Bills that haven’t yet moved out of committee may be proposed as amendments to legislation that is moving.
TMA is watching each bill, committee substitute, and amendment for any changes. It is not uncommon for revised legislation to prompt a revised position from TMA, particularly when bad bills become better bills through rewriting or amending them. If you have a question about a specific bill, contact the advocacy team in the TMA Knowledge Center by email or call (800) 880-7955, Monday-Friday, 8:15 am to 5:15 pm CT.
ARE YOU A LEGISLATIVE JUNKIE?
If talk of bills and committees and backroom deals initiate tachycardia, you might want to join TMA Leading Advocates. It’s TMA’s exclusive Facebook group for legislative advocacy. Enjoy special features, news in advance, and a community of TMA members who are excited to talk about the Texas legislature and medicine's advocacy priorities. This closed group is open only to TMA and TMA Alliance members, and TMA and county medical society staff. Join today.
TMA’s 2019 legislative agenda includes priorities to help advance patient care in Texas.
At the top of the list are the state budget, insurance reform, scope of practice, maternal health, the Texas Medical Board and Medical Practice Act, and public health.
TMA member physicians and medical students, and TMA Alliance members play a significant role in advancing medicine’s priorities at the Capitol. Here are some ways you can help:
Make sure you receive TMA’s Legislative News Hotline each day, via Texas Medicine Today. Here’s how: Just log in to the Edit My Interests page on your TMA profile. Ensure you get all the legislative updates by selecting "Health care issues in the Texas Legislature" as one of your Grassroots and Advocacy interests. TMA’s updates on the latest bills affecting medicine will arrive in your inbox as part of Texas Medicine Today at 2 pm each day lawmakers convene at the Capitol throughout Texas’ 86th legislative session.
PHYSICIAN OF THE DAY
Today’s physician of the day is Mary Anne Snyder, DO, of San Antonio. Dr. Snyder graduated from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences and is a member of both TMA and the Bexar County Medical Society.
WHAT WE’RE READING
U.S. health officials unveil experiment to overhaul primary care – STAT
Cancer Is Especially Dangerous for Immigrants in South Texas. Here's Why. – Kaiser Health News
Measles cases surge in U.S. as outbreak approaches record – The Washington Post
At the U.S.-Mexico Border, Volunteer Medics Step in to Care for Migrants – NPR
Social Security and Medicare Funds Face Insolvency, Report Finds – The New York Times