Mar 23, 2011

House Appropriations Committee Passes 2012-13 State Budget

TMA Legislative News Hotline

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The House Appropriations Committee passed its 2012-13 budget bill, House Bill 1, this morning. The total budget (Texas and federal dollars) totaled $164.5 billion, a cut of $23 billion from the current (2010-11) budget. It still would cut Medicaid payment rates to physicians and providers by 10 percent. The budget bill is expected to be up for debate on the House floor next Friday

Meanwhile in the upper chamber, the Texas Senate is working on its own version of a budget bill ― it’s called Senate Bill 1. Yesterday, the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Fiscal Matters met for the first time to identify $5 billion in additional non-tax revenue for its budget. Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock), chair of the subcommittee, handed out assignments to each member. Their mission is to find new ways of balancing the budget through the sale of state property, tax exemptions and new ways to improve tax collections, review of state fees, maximizing the use of dedicated revenue, and more. Stay tuned.

Women’s Health Program: Yesterday, Janet Realini, MD, MPH, a family physician and a volunteer for the Healthy Futures Alliance (HFA), a community coalition dedicated to reducing teen and unplanned pregnancy in San Antonio, testified on behalf of TMA before the House Human Services Committee. Dr. Realini testified in support of House Bill 419 by Rep. Mike Villarereal (D-San Antonio). In 2007, Texas launched the Women’s Health Program (WHP) as a pilot to reduce Medicaid costs by providing low-income women access to family planning services, excluding abortion. Without legislative action, the program will expire in December 2011. HB 419 would extend WHP through 2021. It also strengthens the program by requiring the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to automatically enroll women in the program when their pregnancy-related Medicaid benefits end 60-days postpartum.

Neonatal Intensive Care: Several bills are before the House Public Health Committee today with the goal of reducing the cost of neonatal intensive care services for Medicaid. TMA will support these bills:
  • HB 2636 by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenahm) directs HHSC to establish a commission to study neonatal intensive care units.
  • HB 1983 by Representative Kolkhorst directs HHSC not to reimburse physicians and providers who perform nonmedically induced deliveries prior to the 39th week for women covered under Medicaid. It also directs HHSC to conduct a study on the impact of the policy on infant health and frequency of infant admissions to neonatal intensive care units as well as readmission rates.
  • HB 2505 by Rep. Armado Walle (R-Houston) would establish a task force for lowering the incidence of premature births and improve the care of premature infants.
Immunization: The Senate Higher Education Committee will take up SB 1107 by Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth). The measure, which TMA supports, would require first-time or transfer students at a public or private college to be vaccinated for bacterial meningitis, regardless of where they live. Senator Davis sponsored legislation in 2009 that made Texas the first state to make this vaccination a requirement for all first-time college students that live on campus.

Undocumented immigrants: The House State Affairs Committee will take up HB 608 by Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond). The legislation would require each state agency to submit a report of the costs of services and benefits provided to undocumented immigrants. The comptroller would use these reports to produce a biennial report to the legislature on the estimated financial impact of undocumented immigrants on the budget and economy. TMA supports the bill.

If you want to read letters and TMA physicians’ testimonies submitted to Texas lawmakers, you can find them on the TMA website.

Physician’ licensing: The Senate passed SB 240 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Southside Place) yesterday. The legislation streamlines the process for out-of-state physicians to obtain a medical license in Texas. Under the measure, doctors who have held a medical license in another state for at least five years, have never had any disciplinary orders or probation, and agree to practice medicine in an underserved area would be given an indefinite amount of time to complete their licensing certification in Texas.

Voter ID: The Texas House will take up the voter ID bill today. The legislation requires Texans to show a valid photo ID — such as a driver license or state-issued ID card, a military ID, or a passport — to vote.

The physician of the day at the capitol is Keith Miller, MD, of Center. Dr. Miller has practiced family medicine for 23 years. He graduated from the University of Arkansas School of Medicine in 1985. Dr. Miller is a member of AMA, TMA, and the Shelby-Sabine County Medical Society.

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.

Register today for First Tuesdays at the Capitol on April 5.

Opponents of Medicaid cuts warn of devastating ripple effect
(Austin American-Statesman)
Healthcare Reform's First Birthday Is No Piece of Cake
(Medscape Today)
Health Insurance Exchange Bill Bottled Up In Committee
(Quorum Report)

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