Apr 19, 2011

Why the Senate Has a Better Budget Plan

TMA Legislative News Hotline

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sen. Steve Ogden
The budget debate between the House and Senate starts this week. Today the Senate Finance Committee will discuss which nontax revenue options it will use to pay for its more generous budget. Then tomorrow, the committee will discuss using money out of the Rainy Day Fund. On Thursday, the committee is expected to vote the budget out of committee and hand it over to the full Senate for debate. TMA sent a letter today to Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan), chief budget writer for the Senate, supporting the Senate’s budget plan. Here’s why:
  • The House bill eliminated more than $100 million in state and federal funds for community-based mental health and hospital services for adults and children. The Senate plan restores that money.
  • The House bill cut Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) physicians’ fees by10 percent. The Senate plan restores that money.
  • The House bill cut almost all of the state’s $21 million tobacco cessation program. The Senate plan restores half of that money — and uses the rest to help children’s hospitals.
  • The House bill provides absolutely no funding for either of our physician education loan repayment programs — that’s a cut of $58 million. The Senate plan provides $17.5 million for the biennium for the underserved-area loan repayment program.
  • The Senate plan invests $6 million in significant efforts to improve birth outcomes and reduce preventable hospitalizations and readmissions.
Health insurance reform: Several bills TMA supports are before the House Insurance Committee and ready for the full House to take up on its next Local and Consent Calendar:
  • House Bill 2101 by Rep. Luna Hernandez (D-Houston) would require certain health plans to provide coverage for supplemental breast cancer screenings.
  • HB 3266 by Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville) requires state auditors to audit pharmacy claims for Employees Retirement System of Texas and Teachers Retirement System of Texas members. The goal of the bill is to verify parity between retail and mail-order pharmacies.
  • Senate Bill 822 by Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) allows 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 still pending. Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Simonton), is carrying the House version of this bill — HB 1333.
  • HB 438 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) is on the House Local and Consent Calendar today. The bill would require health plans to cover orally administered anticancer medications at the same level as they provide coverage for other medical or surgical expenses.

Rep. Garnet Coleman
 Immunizations: Two TMA-supported bills are on House and Senate calendars.
  • HB 3336 by Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) is on today’s House Local and Consent Calendar. The measure would require that new moms receive information on pertussis (and the ability to get a Tdap vaccination if needed) before leaving the hospital.
  • SB 1177 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) is on the Senate Intent Calendar. The bill 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.
Physician workforce: TMA’s graduate medical education bill, HB 2908 by Rep. Dan Branch (R-Dallas), is on the House Local and Consent Calendar today. The bill directs the Higher Education Coordinating Board to determine how many graduate medical education slots Texas needs to keep up with the number of medical school graduates.

The physician of the day at the capitol is Nejla S. Shami, MD, of Hamilton. She has practiced family medicine for nine years. Dr. Shami graduated from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in 2000. She is a member of TMA and the Travis County Medical Society.

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Key factors make Texas budget problem tougher to solve (Austin-American Statesman)
Ogden Revives Key Piece of Federal Health Reform
(Texas Tribune)

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