Jun 7, 2011

TMA to House: Follow Rep. Zerwas on Key Health Bill

TMA Legislative News Hotline

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rep. John Zerwas, MD
The Texas House will take up the omnibus health care bill, Senate Bill 7 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), tomorrow. Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Simonton), is sponsoring the bill and has the power to decide, initially, which amendments stay and which don’t. However, House members can offer additional amendments. If an amendment is ruled germane to the bill, it can be added to the bill on an affirmative vote. Because this could be the last chance a lawmaker has to pass his or her health care-related bill this special session, SB 7 could get loaded down with many good and bad amendments. TMA is asking House members to accept only the amendments recommended by Representative Zerwas — and no more.

SB 7 is an important bill. It’s one of three bills key to balancing the state budget. It contains many provisions important to physicians and their patients. TMA supports items that will:
  • Create a new Medicaid and CHIP Quality-Based Payment Advisory Committee and program that would tie a portion of Medicaid HMO premiums to improved health outcomes and quality, and implement copayments in Medicaid to reduce unnecessary emergency department use;
  • Establish a statewide plan to improve quality and increase efficiency by forming and regulating health care collaboratives;
  • Ensure physicians would have an equal say and vote in a collaborative’s governing board, and due process protections and the ability to participate in more than one collaborative arrangement in their community;
  • Protect Texas’ ban on the corporate practice of medicine;
  • Create more than $460 million for Medicaid by placing a premium tax on Medicaid managed care companies that are expanding to the Rio Grande Valley;
  • Protect patients from vaccine-preventable diseases in health care facilities by requiring health care workers to be properly immunized; and
  • Establish the Texas Emergency and Trauma Care Education Partnership Program to ensure support of the trauma infrastructure in Texas.
The Texas House will take up these bills on Thursday:
  • SB 1 by Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock). It generates additional nontax revenue to cover spending in the budget.
  • SB 2 by Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan). It amends current law to appropriate money to support state government. While most of the state budget has passed and is awaiting action by the comptroller and governor, the appropriation for schools was contingent on the passage of school finance legislation, which failed in the regular session. This bill makes the needed appropriation.
  • HB 13 by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham). The bill calls for developing a Section 1115 federal waiver (block grant) to give Texas greater flexibility in the design and operation of the Medicaid program. TMA raised several concerns about the bill, specifically whether Texas could secure enough funding to cover not only annual medical inflation but also caseload growth.
Interstate compact: The House Select Committee on State Sovereignty passed HB 5 by Representative Kolkhorst yesterday. The bill would establish the Interstate Health Care Compact to petition the federal government to block-grant all federal funding to the states for health care services.  TMA is concerned that Texas could be short-changed under a block grant proposal and wants to make sure that any proposal includes both state population growth and demographic changes.

Remember on Wednesday, June 8, at 8 pm (CDT), TMA President C. Bruce Malone, MD, will call you at your home telephone number and invite you to stay on the line for TMA’s Tele-2011 Legislative Update. For the next 45 minutes, Dr. Malone and members of TMA’s Council on Legislation and TMA’s lobby team will discuss what happened during the 2011 legislative session that affects you and your patients. They also will talk about what issues are still in discussion. You may ask questions after each topic. And the best part: You will earn 1 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ for your time (providing you stay on the line for the entire program).

Texas House panel approves health care compact (Houston Chronicle)
Senate Dems take hard stance on Medicare
(The Hill Healthwatc

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