The COVID-19 pandemic may have brought many activities to a standstill, but not the Texas Medical Association’s First Tuesdays at the Capitol, which was held virtually Tuesday.
Almost 200 physicians, medical students, and alliance advocates logged on to Zoom for the first-ever virtual advocacy event, which featured an in-depth briefing on TMA’s legislative agenda for this session.
After welcome messages from TMA President Diana Fite, MD, and TMA Alliance Past President Patty Loose, TMA’s lobby team presented TMA’s key legislative priorities, which include the budget, protecting physician scope of practice, and eliminating prior authorization hassles.
“It’s important that we work together to make sure legislators pass a budget that improves access to care, provides the funding needed to care for our Medicaid patients, and grows more resident slots,” Dr. Fite said.
There are many ways to get involved in TMA’s advocacy efforts this session, including responding to time-sensitive Action Alerts, participating in virtual First Tuesdays in the District with your county medical society, and attending virtual First Tuesdays at the Capitol – the next one will be held at noon March 2. Register today.
Chief among TMA’s priorities is the biennial budget, which includes funding for health and human services and higher education. During the 2021 session, TMA will fight for legislation that:
- Extends meaningful health care coverage to Texans who need it;
- Maintains funding for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), women’s health, and behavioral health;
- Enhances Medicaid and CHIP physician payments;
- Strengthens public health; and
- Sustains state investments in graduate medical education.
The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), will begin hearings on the budget, Senate Bill 1, next week. Once House committee assignments are made, the House Appropriations Committee will begin working on its version of the budget. Those versions will be reconciled later this session.
Reducing the rate of tobacco use and vaping remains another important public health goal for TMA, and studies show that increasing prices decreases consumption. TMA is advocating not only for an increase in the cigarette tax and tax parity for e-cigarettes and related components – such as cartridges and pods – but also requiring retailers to have permits to sell e-cigarettes.
Prior authorization reform is a top concern again this legislative session, and lawmakers are listening. Several bills already have been filed, with more expected before the bill filing deadline next month. One of the proposed reforms TMA is working on this session is requiring health plans to “gold card” – or fast track – physicians whose prior authorizations are routinely approved. TMA is collecting physicians’ personal prior authorization nightmare stories to bolster our message to lawmakers. Send your own stories via TMA’s secure email portal.
TMA also is working with a coalition of more than 40 organizations to block a medical billing tax, which would add state sales and local taxes to the preparation of medical bills. Rep. Tom Oliverson, MD (R-Cypress) has filed House Bill 1445 to prevent this tax.
In its fight against scope of practice expansions by nonphysicians, TMA continues to support physician-led, team-based care. Already this session, pharmacists are working to put into statute the expanded permissions granted during the current public health emergency, and chiropractors again seek to add “neuro” to the definition of “musculoskeletal.”
Easy Ways to Get Involved in TMA Advocacy
Your participation is a vital component of our legislative success. Please help strengthen the voice of medicine by joining our advocacy efforts.
Stay up to date on TMA’s progress in the legislature. And take advantage of other opportunities to get involved with our advocacy efforts.