Mar 29, 2011

Health Reform Bills Heard in Senate Committee

TMA Legislative News Hotline

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Medicaid cost savings: TMA-member physicians this morning testified in support of a committee substitute for Senate Bill 7. The bill is authored by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Lewisville) and was taken up this morning in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.  SB 7 focuses on ways to save money in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Many provisions in the bill would reduce Medicaid payments when patients are readmitted for preventable illnesses, establish copayments for unnecessary emergency room visits, provide incentives for hospitals and physicians to reduce waste and improve quality of care, and study whether pay-for-performance is workable for long-term care.

Dr. Asa Lockhart
 Collaborative hospital/physician arrangements: Asa Lockhart, MD, chair of TMA’s Ad Hoc Committee on Accountable Care Organizations and an anesthesiologist from Tyler, testified in support of a committee substitute for SB 8. The bill, authored by Senator Nelson, is before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee this morning. The measure would establish a statewide plan for improving quality and increasing efficiency through performance-based measures, test collaborative models between physicians and other health care providers, and require public reporting of preventable readmissions and complications. For the past several weeks, TMA, the Texas Association of Health Plans, and the Texas Hospital Association have negotiated how the new paradigm in the bill would play out in the real world. As a result of these negotiations, three important provisions have been added to SB 8 to protect physicians in collaborative arrangements:
  • Physicians would have an equal say and vote in a collaborative arrangement’s governing board.
  • They also would have due process protections and the ability to participate in more than one collaborative arrangement in their community.
  • The bill also protects Texas’ ban on the corporate practice of medicine.
Physician employment: Yesterday, Susan Strate, MD, a pathologist from Wichita Falls and past chair of TEXPAC, testified against SB 1255. The bill by Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) was heard in the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. The measure would allow hospitals in Wise County to employ physicians. Dr. Strate testified against the bill because its provisions fell outside the scope of TMA’s and Sen. Robert Duncan’s agreed-upon physician-employment bill, SB 894, to help certain Texas counties. Dr. State told committee members that many of the small hospitals in larger markets are asking for the ability to hire doctors even though they currently don’t have problems recruiting physicians. She also said the measure would create an unlevel playing field for physicians in independent practice and inhibit market dynamics.

Health care associated infections: TMA also submitted a letter in support of SB 620 by Senator Nelson that calls for changes in hospitals’ reporting of health care-associated infection (HAI) information. The changes would allow the state to participate in the National Healthcare Safety Network supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. SB 620 would help guarantee a standardized reporting process and conserve precious state dollars. SB 620 is before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee today.

Tobacco cessation program: TMA also will support House Bill 1166 by Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond), today. The bill would require the Employees Retirement System of Texas to develop a plan to provide smoking cessation benefits through Texas’ employee health plan, including prescription drugs to help people to quit smoking. The measure will be heard today in the House Insurance Committee.

The Texas House will vote Thursday on whether to use $3.1 billion to cover part of the state’s current (2010-11) budget shortfall of $4 billion. Then on Friday, House members will begin debate on House Bill 1 — the House version of the state budget. The House Appropriations Committee approved the measure last week. Here is a copy of the 2012-13 budget proposal. The Senate Finance Committee is on schedule to finalize its budget bill, SB 1, next week.

The physician of the day at the capitol is Kurtis W. Davis, MD, of Bryan. Dr. Davis specializes in family medicine. He graduated from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in 2008. Dr. Davis is a member of the Brazos-Robertson County Medical Society.

It’s not too late. Register today for First Tuesdays at the Capitol on April 5.

Tell us your story. TMA wants to capture your story on video. Tell us why you decided to become a physician. What day did you leave your office or hospital and say to yourself, “Now, that’s why I became a physician”? Tell us what your profession means to you. Check out “physician moments” from some of your colleagues.

Legislative process reveals hard truths (Austin-American Statesman)
Senate Committee Endorses Rural Hospital Hiring Doctors
(Texas Tribune)

1 comment:

Brendon Shank said...

Regardless of the outcome of the healthcare reform bills, reducing preventable readmissions to hospitals will continue to be a major issue in reducing spending.

Many of the leaders in the efforts to reduce readmissions will be in Grapevine, TX in May at the Society of Hospital Medicine's annual conference. There, they will be highlighting some of the best practices from across the country to keep patients safer and hospitals efficient.

For more information: