Apr 27, 2011

Senate Needs 21 Votes to Bring Up Better Budget Bill

TMA Legislative News Hotline

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


WHAT YOU CAN DO
Contact your senator today. The Senate needs 21 votes to bring up the Senate Finance Committee substitute to House Bill (CSHB) 1 — the state’s 2012-13 spending package. Please contact your senator today and ask him or her to vote to take up CSHB 1. This spending plan benefits you and your patients. Here is a comparison of the House and Senate budget bills. Compare the difference, then contact your senator and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to support the Senate version.

Here’s why: The Senate Finance Committee 2012-13 budget plan is $12 billion more generous than the House version, and restored 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. Plus, if a budget bill does not pass in the next four weeks it will be decided in a special session. Health care definitely will not be funded quite as generously. Act now. Please send an e-mail through TMA’s Grassroots Action Center or call your senator today.

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.

BILL UPDATE
Great news: TMA-supported bills were passed in the House and Senate chambers yesterday. Bills that the full Senate passed include:
  • Senate Bill 224 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound). It requires schools to report students’ fitness and academic scores to the Texas Education Agency.
  • SB 1177 by Senator Nelson. It 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.
These two bills were passed on second reading by the House:
  • HB 127 by Rep. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston). It would ban the sale of unhealthy sugary drinks to students in schools. A big shout-out to Reps. Susan King (R-Abilene), Garnet Coleman (R-Houston), Dianne Patrick (R-Arlington), Marc Veasey (D-Fort Worth), and Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville) who helped Representative Alvardo pass her important bill on the House floor. HB 127 is an important step to help fight childhood obesity. Like TMA member Marta Katalenas, MD, a Round Rock pediatrician, wrote on her blog recently, “Children are not hummingbirds; stop giving them sugary drinks.”
  • HB 273 by Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Simonton). It would create a committee to study the Interstate Health Care Compact.

Rep. Rob Eissler
R-The Woodlands

UNDER THE ROTUNDA
Physician licensure: HB 527 by Rep. Rob Eissler (R-The Woodlands) will be taken up by the House Public Health Committee today. The bill would change the number of times a medical student could attempt to pass the U.S. Medical Licensure Exam. Currently a person can attempt to pass each component of the exam three times. This bill would change it so a person can attempt to pass each component six times.

Health insurance reform: The House Insurance Committee passed two TMA bills yesterday:
  • SB 822 by Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) and HB 1333 by Representative Zerwas. These bills would allow physicians who work in an academic setting to treat patients as “in-network” physicians for claims purposes while their applications for credentialing and health plan network participation are being processed.
  • CSHB 1534 by Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Galveston).The committee substitute seeks to balance access to preferred provider organization networks while making their actions transparent when using a physician and other health care provider discount.   
Reconstructive surgery: Today the House Public Health Committee will take up HB 669 by Rep. James White (R-Hillister). TMA worked with the bill author on a committee substitute. The bill no longer mandates what a physician must say to a patient regarding reconstructive breast surgery. Now the bill simply fosters that dialogue. It allows the physician to use discretion as to what is appropriate. Debra Patt, MD, an Austin oncologist, will testify in support of CSHB 669.

Lyme disease: The House Public Health Committee also will take up HB 2975 by Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi). The legislation establishes a process of accredited continuing medical education (CME) programs for physicians by the Texas Medical Board (TMB). A TMB stakeholders group would develop accredited CME offerings regarding Lyme disease diagnosis, care, and treatment. Sen. Chris Harris (R-Arlington) is carrying the bill’s companion legislation, SB 1360.

PHYSICIAN OF THE DAY
The physician of the day at the capitol is Mary Helen Morrow, MD, of North Zulch. Dr. Morrow has practiced family medicine for 15 years. She graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in 1991. Dr. Morrow is a member of the Brazos-Robertson County Medical Society.

WHAT WE'RE READING
Dewhurst says he disagrees with, and was surprised by, Finance Committee’s use of rainy day fund (Austin-American Statesman)
Perry: “No Faith” In LBB; Leave Rainy Day Fund Alone (Texas Tribune)

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