Apr 5, 2011

350 White Coats Flood the Texas Capitol

TMA Legislative News Hotline

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Physicians from the Hidalgo-Starr County Medical Society meet with
State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville)
White coats covered the halls of the state capitol today. More than 350 physicians and medical students from across the state are in Austin for First Tuesdays at the Capitol. TMA and alliance leaders and medical students are meeting with their lawmakers to discuss the impact of the deep state budget cuts on local health care services for Texas’ seniors, children, and persons with disabilities and mental illnesses. They also will urge lawmakers to support a statewide smoking ban, prevent efforts by nonphysician practitioners to expand their scope of practice, and support funding for graduate medical education and the physician loan repayment program.

Here are a few of today’s highlights:

Lance Armstrong in the
Texas House of Representatives
Cancer Awareness Day: TMA President Susan Rudd Bailey, MD, and Houston cardiologist A. Tomas Garcia, MD, represented TMA at a news conference at the capitol. Drs. Bailey and Garcia joined Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) and Lance Armstrong, seven-time Tour de France winner. Cancer prevention advocates called on legislators to continue supporting cancer research and prevention in Texas. Senator Nelson asked lawmakers to support her bill ― Senate Bill 73, which would allow the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) to issue funds when they are needed for cancer research, prevention, and commercialization grants. Since its creation, CPRIT has created 11,000 jobs with more than an $850 million impact on Texas businesses.

Health Care Worker Vaccinations: Charles J. Lerner, MD, FSHEA, chair of TMA’s Committee on Infectious Diseases and the medical director of hospital epidemiology and employee health for the Methodist Health Care system in San Antonio, will testify in support of SB 1177. The measure, authored by Senator Nelson, would require health care workers to be vaccinated against communicable diseases. The bill is before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. TMA started an outreach campaign a year ago to encourage physicians and their coworkers and colleagues to keep their vaccinations current.

Women’s Health Program: Janet Realini, MD, MPH, a San Antonio family physician and a volunteer for the Healthy Futures Alliance (HFA), a community coalition dedicated to reducing teen and unplanned pregnancy, also will take the witness stand before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Dr. Realini will testify in support of SB 575 by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) and SB 585 by Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin). Both bills would renew state support for the Texas Women’s Health Program, which is set to expire this year. The program provides gynecological exams and birth control to low-income women.

Environmental Safety: G. Sealy Massingell, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist from Fort Worth will testify in support of SB 506 by Sen. Robert Deuell, MD (R-Greenville), before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee today. The bill would lower the amount of mercury needed in a food item, such as fish and shell fish, to warrant an advisory. The advisory would help consumers better protect themselves from mercury contamination.

Health Insurance: TMA is supporting several bills before the House Insurance Committee today. These include:
  • HB 2149 by Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Galveston) would prevent an HMO or an insurer that contracts with a rural hospital (critical access or sole community hospital, located in a county with a population of no more than 50,000) from denying the hospital the opportunity to provide ancillary services.
  • HB 2723 by Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston) would require health insurers to give enrollees 60-days notice before they increase insurance premiums. This applies to patients enrolled in an individual or small-employer health plan. The notice also must include the effective date and the amount of the increase.
  • HB 3017 by Rep. John Smithee (R-Amarillo) would put in statute what was adopted through rulemaking late last year after the Office of Public Insurance Counsel (OPIC) petitioned the Texas Department of Insurance to prohibit the use of discretionary clauses in insurance policies. TMA supported OPIC’s request and commented heavily during the rulemaking process over the past year.
Physician Employment: SB 894 by Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) is on the Senate calendar and is likely to be heard by the full Senate today. SB 894 would allow critical access hospitals, sole community hospitals, and hospitals in counties of 50,000 or fewer to employ physicians. Most of these hospitals are run by local governments. The bill contains many features that protect the physician’s clinical autonomy against the corporate practice of medicine. The bill:
  • Places the responsibility for all clinical matters — bylaws, credentialing, utilization review, and peer review — under the medical staff;
  • Guarantees physicians’ independent medical judgment;
  • States that all physicians — employed or independent — are subject to the same rights and responsibilities;
  • Allows employed physicians to participate in the selection of their liability insurance and have the right to consent to settle in a liability action; and
  • Requires the medical staff to designate a chief medical officer (CMO) who must be approved by the hospital board. The CMO has the duty to report to TMB that the hospital is hiring physicians under this bill and that the CMO is the contact for TMB. The CMO has a duty to report instances of interference to TMB.
The physician of the day at the capitol is David M. Palafox, MD, of El Paso. Dr. Palafox has practiced family medicine for 28 years. He graduated from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in 1980. Dr. Palafox is a member of TMA and the El Paso 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.

Physician Bills Raise Concern About Safety, Motive (Texas Tribune)
In Our View: David Dewhurst's plan to save Texas
(Odessa American Online)
UIL formulates stricter concussion guidelines
(Austin American-Statesman)
Republicans' 2012 budget plan alters Medicare, Medicaid
(Healthcare Finance News)

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