Take Action: Scope, Liability Bills on the Move


Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are telling lawmakers they need the authority to diagnose and prescribe independent of physician supervision. Senate Bill 915 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-Richland Hills) has been referred to the Senate Business and Commerce Committee for a hearing to be scheduled soon. The companion is House Bill 2029 by Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth).

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 993, also by Senator Hancock, would allow optometrists to perform a variety of eye surgeries and also is expected to be referred to Senate Business and Commerce. The companion is House Bill 2340, also by Representative Klick.

Help stop these bills now. Contact your state lawmakers  today to let them know if they want to improve access to safe, quality health care in Texas, they must expand opportunities for physician-led, team-based care.

The Senate Business and Commerce Committee is led by Senator Hancock (chair) and Sen. Robert Nichols, (R-Jacksonville) (vice -chair). Other members include: physician-senators Donna Campbell, MD (R-New Braunfels) and Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown); and Sens. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas), Jose Menendez, (D-San Antonio), Angela Paxton R-McKinney), and John Whitmire (D-Houston).

Take action now. Go to the TMA Grassroots Action Center for a ready-made message you can send to your lawmakers easily and quickly.

Bill Filed Would Bolster Liability Protections in Pandemic, Disaster 

By Joey Berlin

The Texas Medical Association believes physicians need and deserve extra liability protections in extraordinary situations – which, as you well know, describes everything about the past year.

Bills filed in the Texas Legislature this week would give doctors those protections – including retroactively back to when Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster for COVID-19.

TMA worked with the Texas Civil Justice League (TCJL) and the Texas Alliance for Patient Access (TAPA) on the bills – Senate Bill 6 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) and its companion, House Bill 3659 by Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano), which were filed Wednesday.

SB 6 would make sure physicians, first responders, and other health care workers who act in good faith aren’t liable for injuries or death “arising from care, treatment, or failure to provide care or treatment relating to or impacted by a pandemic disease” or a disaster declaration related to such a disease – ideas supported by medicine and other industries, including the business community.

SB 6 specifically mentions several actions for which physicians wouldn’t face liability during a pandemic. Among them:

  • Screening, assessing, diagnosing, or treating someone who is infected or suspected of being infected with a pandemic disease;
  • Prescribing a drug for off-label or investigational use to treat someone who’s infected or suspected to be infected;
  • Delaying or canceling non-urgent or elective medical and surgical procedures;
  • Delaying, canceling, or not accepting in-person appointments for illnesses or conditions not related to a pandemic; and
  • Acts or omissions caused by lack of resources attributable to a pandemic, including lack of staffing, facilities, medical devices, and supplies.

SB 6 would not protect “reckless conduct or intentional, willful or wanton misconduct.” It would cover presidential declarations of disaster or emergency as well as a governor’s disaster declaration. And the bill’s liability shields would be retroactive to Governor Abbott’s still-in-effect coronavirus disaster proclamation on March 13, 2020.

Dallas public health physician John Carlo, MD, recently told Texas Medicine that without greater protection, physicians may be less likely to step up during a disaster.

“We need to make sure that our health care workers will be comfortable responding in the middle of a crisis,” Dr. Carlo said. “It’s essential that you have physicians or health care providers that are willing to step up and take on this incredible challenge during a situation where we’re dealing with a lot of uncertainties, even around the environment or the setting or the way that we’re practicing, what devices we’re using, or perhaps what therapies we’re using.”

Backing MedCARES 

TMA, the Texas Pediatric Society (TPS), and two other organizations on Thursday urged a Texas Senate budget workgroup to fully fund a key program that supports child abuse training, education, and treatment, particularly in light of  the strain the pandemic has put on families with young children.

In a letter to the Senate Finance Committee workgroup that’s examining the health and human services portion of the budget, TMA and TPS said it’s vital to keep state support for the Medical Child Abuse Resource Education System (MedCARES), which provides direct clinical services, medical evaluations, research, data collection, and more. As part of the governor’s request last year for many state agencies to slash their budgets by 5%, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) initially planned to eliminate funding for MedCARES.

The Texas Hospital Association and the Children’s Hospital Association of Texas also signed on to the letter. The Senate Finance workgroup includes two physician-legislators, Sens. Dawn Buckingham, MD (R-Lakeway) and Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown).

Easy Ways to Get Involved in TMA Advocacy

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Last Updated On

March 12, 2021

Originally Published On

March 12, 2021