May 23, 2011

State Budget Looks Good -- But What About Medical Education?

TMA Legislative News Hotline

Monday, May 23, 2011

On Saturday, House members approved legislation that would raise some of the money needed to cover spending in the 2012-13 budget. The full House passed Senate Bill 1811 by Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) with 47 amendments. The bill originally would have raised about $4 billion for the state budget. The Senate trimmed it back to $2.7 billion. However, after the House finished Friday night, it now raises only $400 million for the state budget. The bill now goes back to the Senate and on to conference committee for final negotiations. Here’s where the state budget stands at this point.

Last week state leaders agreed to a two-year budget that trimmed $15 billion in current spending. It authorizes spending to the tune of $80.6 billion. All sections of the budget had been approved, except two — education and general government spending. Negotiators today approved cuts to undergraduate and graduate medical education. Look for more details tomorrow. The Senate passed SB 1581 on Saturday that would raise around $330 million for schools. The House will take up this legislation today. Stay tuned.

New polling numbers from The University of Texas and Texas Tribune show voters still want lawmakers to cut the budget but oppose major cuts in health and human services and education.

Rep. Myra Crownover
Tobacco prevention: Rep. Myra Crownover (R-Keller) successfully added legislation to ban smoking to SB 1811 on Saturday. The TMA-backed legislation saves money and lives. In fact, a smoking ban would save the state an estimated $31 million in Medicaid expenses alone. If the Senate agrees to keep this amendment attached to SB 1811, it’s one more step closer to becoming law.

Immunizations: House Bill 3336 by Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) is on the Senate Local and Uncontested Calendar today. This TMA-backed legislation would require that new moms receive information on pertussis (and the ability to get a Tdap vaccination if needed) before leaving the hospital.

Time is running out for TMA-supported SB 1177 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound). It is on the House Calendar but could get caught in the end-of-session backlog. It would require health care facilities such as hospitals to develop and implement vaccination policies for employees. SB 1177 is important because health care workers, especially those who are not immunized against the flu and other preventable diseases, may unknowingly spread these diseases to the patients in their care. The House sponsor is Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Simonton).

Children’s health: SB 229 by Senator Nelson is on the House Local and Consent Calendar today. The measure would help guarantee all babies born in Texas have equal access to an important hearing screening. Another bill on this calendar today is SB 226 by Senator Nelson. It requires schools to report students’ fitness and academic scores to the Texas Education Agency.

Medical liability reform: The Senate State Affairs Committee passed HB 274 by Rep. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) Sunday. It would discourage the filing of obviously frivolous lawsuits and encourage more efficient and speedier resolution of most claims. TMA sent out a statement Saturday asking the Senate to pass HB 274. TMA President C. Bruce Malone, MD said, “This would be another blow against ‘jackpot justice’ in Texas. It also would allow our courts to focus on those patients who bring truly meritorious claims to trial.” The Senate sponsor is Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Southside Place).

The physician of the day at the capitol is Harold Nachimson, MD, of Irving. Dr. Nachimson has practiced family medicine for 40 years. He graduated from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in 1963. Dr. Nachimson is a member of TMA and the Harris County Medical Society.

TMA’s Message: Want to know where TMA stands on issues before House and Senate committees this session? All the testimonies presented by TMA leaders are on the TMA website. You can also find letters TMA has sent to our state leaders.

Read Action: Every two weeks, TMA publishes a web edition of Action. Action presents important and timely information about legal, economic, regulatory, and legislative affairs that Texas physicians need to know. Here is the May 18 edition.

Budget decision puts off Medicaid problem to 2013 (Associated Press)
Texas Hospitals Face Dramatic Payment Overhaul
(Texas Tribune)
Smoking ban advances (Amarillo Globe-News)
Commentary: The doctor won't see you now
(Houston Chronicle)
Texas Senate committee approves revised 'loser pays' bill
(Southeast Texas Record)

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