May 3, 2011

Physicians Push Senate Budget Plan, Employment Protections

TMA Legislative News Hotline

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


TMA IN ACTION
TMA physicians, medical students, and alliance members are at the state capitol today for 2011’s last First Tuesdays at the Capitol. Their key message today is for lawmakers to move a number of bills to the governor’s desk by the end of this month. Here are a few bills that need legislative action:
  • The committee substitute for House Bill 1 — the Senate’s $176.5 billion budget plan for 2012-13. Legislators must move this bill; otherwise, they will be debating the state’s budget in a special session. If that happens, health care will not be funded nearly as generously. Watch this video from TMA Council on Legislation Chair Dan McCoy, MD, to learn more.
  • Senate Bill 1661 Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock). It would provide solid protections for clinical autonomy and independent medical judgment for the thousands of physicians already employed by nonprofit health care corporations (501[a] corporations) established by hospitals across the state. The bill gives to the physician board of directors of these 501(a)’s the responsibility for all policies related to clinical care. Plus it strengthens the role of the Texas Medical Board in supervising the activities of these nonprofit corporations. The bill will be sponsored in the House by Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi).
  • HB 1534 by Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Galveston).The bill seeks to balance access to preferred provider organization networks while making their actions transparent when using a physician’s discounted payment rates. TMA and the Texas Hospital Association, Texas Association of Health Plans, and American Association of Preferred Provider Organizations have worked since early this year on compromise language. The bill recently was voted out of the House Insurance Committee. Now it needs a push by Calendar Committee members to set it for the House calendar as soon as possible.
Check out all the legislative handouts and talking points for today on the TMA website.

BUDGET UPDATE
The Senate Finance Committee approved HB 4 to use $3.25 billion from the Texas Rainy Day Fund to close the $4 billion gap in the state’s current (2010-11) budget. The House passed a supplemental budget bill on April 1. The full Senate is scheduled to take up the legislation tomorrow.

The House has a packed schedule today as it takes up a host of “fiscal matter” bills to find more money for its budget. House members don’t want to tap additional money from the Rainy Day Fund or pass a tax bill. Instead they are looking for other solutions. One bill on the docket — HB 3790 by Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) — has attracted more than 100 proposed amendments. Ideas range from suspending the August sales-tax holiday to penalizing people who file late tax returns to implementing a statewide ban on smoking in workplaces.

BILL UPDATE
Health insurance reform: The Senate State Affairs Committee passed two bills yesterday that TMA supports:
  • HB 438 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) and SB 262 by Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas). These companion bills would require health plans to cover orally administered anticancer medications at the same level as they cover other medical or surgical expenses.
  • HB 1405 by Rep. John Smithee (R-Amarillo). It would require plans that utilize a formulary to continue prescription benefits until the next renewal period if the formulary changes in the middle of the plan year.
Physician workforce: HB 1380 by Rep. Vicki Truitt (R-Keller) is before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee today. It would allow international medical graduates to apply for licensure in Texas after two years of graduate medical education. Its companion legislation, SB 1022 by Sen. José Rodríquez (D-El Paso), is on the Senate Intent Calendar.

Women’s Health Program: The Senate Health and Human Committee approved one of three bills that would extend Texas’ Women’s Health Program through September 2016. The program is set to expire this year. The legislation approved was Senate Bill 1854 by Sen. Robert Deuell, MD (R-Greenville). While the measure preserves the program, it doesn’t address TMA’s legislative objectives to expand eligibility and outreach. TMA President Susan Bailey, MD, sent a letter to Senator Deuell today outlining our strong support for the Women’s Health Program and our concerns about limiting women’s access to affordable services.

UNDER THE ROTUNDA
Here are the bills that were passed in the House and Senate yesterday:
  • HB 123 by Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Fort Worth) was passed by the House. The legislation would create a program to educate Texas adults on the importance of proper diet, nutrition, and physical activity in the prevention and management of diabetes in counties with populations of more than 100,000.
  • HB 15 by Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville) was passed by the Senate. It would require a woman to have a sonogram at least 24 hours before terminating a pregnancy. An exception was made for women who live more than 100 miles away from a clinic. The bill now goes back to the House, where it is unlikely to pass as is. That means the bill will end up in a conference committee, where members from the House and Senate will work out a compromise.
  • SB 1206 by Senator Deuell also was passed by the Senate. The legislation clarifies the services that can be provided in freestanding emergency departments.
WHAT WE'RE READING
Rule Would Discourage States’ Cutting Medicaid Payments to Providers (New York Times)
Sonogram requirement for abortion moves forward
(Houston Chronicle)
Senators Still Searching for Budget Support
(Texas Tribune)
Interstate compacts offer new weapon against health care plan
(Stateline

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