UNDER THE ROTUNDA
Twenty-four days remain in this legislative session. To put into perspective how quickly House bills must move to have a chance to become law this session, they must be out of committee by Monday, May 6, and have had their initial debate on the House floor by the end of the day Thursday, May 9. Then the process repeats in the Senate.
Bills that aren’t voted out of committee can be proposed as amendments to legislation that is moving.
Time is indeed running short to get bills passed this session.
One bill with no reason to worry about timelines is House Bill 826 by Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond), which creates the University of Houston College of Medicine. Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law Thursday, after it was unanimously approved by the Senate. The new medical school, which will be the 14th in Texas, will welcome its inaugural class in the fall of 2020.
The House passed a similar bill last month creating the Sam Houston State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. House Bill 2867, by Rep. Will Metcalf (R-Conroe) and Rep. Tom Oliverson, MD, (R-Cypress), has not yet been taken up by the Senate.
Ensuring there are enough residency spots for graduating medical students is an extremely important part of the equation. Below are the graduate medical eduation (GME) bills that have traction at this point in the session:
- House Bill 1065 by Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), which would create a grant program to develop residency training tracks to prepare physicians for practice in rural, underserved settings, is pending in the Senate Higher Education Committee. HB 1065’s companion, Senate Bill 1084 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), is also in the Senate Higher Education Committee.
- House Bill 2261 by Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston), which would 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, awaits a hearing in the Senate Higher Education Committee. Its companion bill, Senate Bill 998 by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen), is pending in the same committee.
- House Bill 4039 by Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), which would require new medical schools to account for peak class sizes – and not merely inaugural class sizes – when planning residency slots, is set on today’s House Local and Consent Calendar. Senate Bill 1378, by Sen. Dawn Buckingham, MD (R-Lakeway), also is pending on the House Local and Consent Calendar.
Several of the other bills medicine is tracking continue to make legislative progress. Below is an update on a few bills the Texas Medical Association is following:
- House Bill 39 by Representative Zerwas, which would repeal the 2022 sunset date for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and extend it by 10 years, passed out of the Senate Committee on Administration Wednesday. It will next be heard on the Senate floor. TMA continues to strongly support this bill.
- House Joint Resolution 12, also by Representative Zerwas, is the funding mechanism for HB 39. HJR 12 proposes a constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to increase the maximum bond funding for CPRIT. The institute will exhaust its initial allotment of $3 billion by 2021; HJR 12 would replenish those funds, with voter approval. TMA supports this bill, which is set for debate in the Senate Finance Committee on May 6.
- House Bill 278 by Representative Oliverson, which would outline how physicians supervise prescriptive authority agreements with advanced practice registered nurses, was set on today’s Senate Local and Uncontested Calendar, meaning it faces little to no opposition. TMA supports this bill.
- House Bill 1353 by Representative Oliverson, which would provide liability protection for physicians who volunteer in the aftermath of a disaster, was set for debate on the House floor today. The bill was still pending at press time. TMA supports HB 1353. Senate Bill 752 by Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston), which is nearly identical to HB 1353, was voted out of the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee earlier this week and will be heard next on the House floor. Having both bills continue to work through the process is not uncommon. TMA supports both.
- House Bill 1832 by Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Carrollton) – which would prohibit health plan coverage of an emergency care claim dependent on utilization review, protecting the prudent layperson standard – was set on the House Calendar today. TMA supports this bill.
- House Bill 1879 by Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), which would direct the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to identify and auto-enroll in the Healthy Texas Women Program women who lose eligibility for Medicaid or CHIP Perinatal due to age, was voted out of the House Public Health Committee earlier this week and heads next to the House floor for debate. TMA strongly supports this bill.
- House Bill 2099 by Rep. Stan Lambert (R-Abilene), which would prohibit a health plan from changing a patient’s drug coverage upon plan renewal if the patient has been stable on that drug, was set for debate on the House floor today. TMA submitted written testimony in support of this bill in March.
- Senate Bill 1519 by Senator Kolkhorst, which would establish a statewide council on long-term care facilities, was set on the Senate Local and Uncontested Calendar for today, meaning it faces little to no opposition. TMA submitted written testimony in support of the bill last month.
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 amendments. If you have a question about a specific bill, 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.
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 Zaiba Jetpuri, DO, of Richardson. Dr. Jetpuri graduated from the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and is a member of both TMA and the Dallas County Medical Society.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Study: Texas rate of uninsured children double national average – Houston Chronicle
Dell Med students are administering free whooping cough vaccines to medically underserved areas in Austin – The Daily Texan
Commentary: Medication stability means stability for mental health patients and communities [Opinion] – Austin American-Statesman
Trump Administration Now Urges Court to Strike Down Entire Health Law – The Wall Street Journal
Mental health diversion program to expand in Houston area – The Associated Press
Nearly half of physicians think EHRs have decreased quality of care, survey finds – Becker’s Hospital Review
Correction: This story has been updated to say that the the University of Houston College of Medicine will be Texas' 14th medical school.