Apr 26, 2011

Contact Your Senator Today for a Better Budget Bill

TMA Legislative News Hotline

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Contact your senator today. TMA issued an action alert this morning asking members to contact their state senator today. Here’s why: Last week the Senate Finance Committee passed its 2012-13 budget plan. Its budget was $12 billion more generous than the House version, restoring funding for critical health care services. Finance Committee members did not slash physicians’ Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program payments by 10 percent. They did not slash nursing home payments. They did not slash community-based mental health and hospital services for adults and children. They did not completely eliminate the Physician Education Loan Repayment Program or the state’s tobacco cessation program.

By no means does the Senate budget fully fund all of medicine’s top priorities, including funds to improve the physician workforce and essential public health services. This is still a very lean budget. That is why TMA will continue to work on these priorities.  However, given the historic budget crisis facing Texas, we believe this budget goes a long way towards protecting Texas health care safety.

It is critical to move the Senate proposal forward at this point to maximize the possibility of passing a budget during the regular session. If approved by the Senate, the next likely step is for both chambers to appoint a conference committee to work out differences between the two proposals. Act now. Please send an e-mail through TMA’s Grassroots Action Center or call your senator today.

Check out the TMA website for a comparison of the House and Senate budget bills.

Sign up now for the last First Tuesdays at the Capitol. It’s your last chance to join hundreds of your colleagues to lobby on legislation that affects you and your patients. Sign up now to attend First Tuesdays at the Capitol on May 3. International medical graduates especially are invited to take part. Register today.

End of life: For the third week in a row, the House Human Services Committee will discuss how end-of-life decisions should be made and by whom. Today the committee is planning to take up House Bill 2483 by Rep. Aaron Peña (R-Edinburg). The restrictive measure would greatly limit a physician’s ability and willingness to execute a “do not resuscitate” order. It also would potentially criminalize the activity. It prioritizes the wishes of family members above those even of the patient and gives them near-absolute control over how long and what kind of care a terminally ill patient should receive while in the hospital, regardless of whether the care is medically appropriate. TMA submitted these comments in opposition to HB 2483.

Scope of practice: The Senate Health and Human Services Committee will take up Senate Bill 1084 by Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) today. It would establish a definition of “complementary and alternative health care services” in state law and define which acts practitioners of these services are prohibited from doing, such as surgery, diagnostic testing, the exercise of prescriptive authority, and medical diagnosis but allow them to perform all other services. It would also require these practitioners to give each client in writing the services they are providing and the practitioner's related education, training, experience, or other qualifications to provide these services. TMA submitted these comments in opposition to the proposal.

Rep. Linda Harper-Brown
Health insurance reform: The House Insurance Committee today will take up two bills TMA supports. These are:
  • House Bill 3291 by Rep. Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving). It would prohibit insurers from making a false, misleading, or intimidating statement that would encourage a patient to fill prescriptions at a specific pharmacy.
  • HB 762 by Rep. Jose Manuel Lozano (D-Kingsville). It would require the state employee health plans (Employees Retirement System [ERS], Teacher Retirement System, The University of Texas System, and Texas A&M University System) to create voluntary pill-splitting programs with a pharmacy copay reduction as a participation incentive. The ERS Board of Trustees would adopt a list of eligible pills for the program and educational materials. It also would require individuals who choose to participate in the program to obtain a prescription from their physician for eligible drugs.
TMA supports several bills on the Senate and House calendars. On the Senate Intent Calendar are these four, plus the committee substitute for HB 1 — the state budget bill discussed above:
  • SB 224 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) requires schools to report students’ fitness and academic scores to the Texas Education Agency.
  • SB 1177 by Senator Nelson requires health care facilities such as hospitals to develop and implement vaccination policies to protect patients from vaccine-preventable diseases. The policy would require health care workers to get vaccinations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
  • SB 1022 by Sen. José Rodríquez (D-El Paso) would allow international medical graduates to apply for licensure in Texas after two years of graduate medical education.
  • SB 1533 by Sen. “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) restricts the availability of foods served in Texas public schools with industrially produced trans fats.
On the General House Calendar up for a second reading today are these two bills:
  • HB 127 by Rep. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) would ban the sale of unhealthy sugary drinks to students in schools.
  • HB 273 by Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Simonton), would create a committee to study the Interstate Health Care Compact.
Jeffrey Edwards, MD
The physician of the day at the capitol is Jeffrey Edwards, MD, of Stephenville. Dr. Edwards has practiced family medicine for six years. He graduated from the University of Washington School of Medicine in 1991. Dr. Edwards is a member of the Erath-Somervell-Comanche County Medical Society.

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