The Texas Medical Association has long beat the drum for bolstering graduate medical education, cutting red tape that hinders patient care, promoting transparent insurance markets, and preventing unqualified health professionals from delivering care outside their expertise. This was the year those and other messages got through to lawmakers and paid off in long-sought, even precedent-setting victories at the conclusion of the 2013 Texas Legislature.
As this article was prepared, all of TMA's priority bills either became law or were on their way to Gov. Rick Perry's desk for signature following House and Senate approval. He has 20 days to act, whether signing it into law, vetoing it, or allowing the legislation to become law without signature.
Key milestones include:
- First regulation of so-called "silent PPOs" that share physician-contracted discounts without doctors' knowledge or consent;
- A new model for physician-led, team-based care, and for future legislative scope of practice discussions;
- Wide-ranging reductions in practice red tape, including development of uniform prior-authorization forms for medications and health care services;
- Due process protections in Medicaid fraud investigations;
- Increased access to immunizations;
- More money for GME, mental health, and women's health; and
- Preservation of tort reforms and a strong Texas Medical Board.
Medicine's success this session was due on large part to seeds TMA planted early on, said Darren Whitehurst, vice president for advocacy.
"We took a very good preventive approach," he said. "We did a good job educating legislators back in their districts before the session. We had a good game plan in the political cycle in getting elected people who look to their doctors to understand medicine's issues. And that paid dividends in the legislature."
Even though not all of TMA's bills made it to the finish line, medicine did not lose any ground, TMA leaders add.
Additional money to boost Medicaid physician payment rates never materialized, but neither were rates reduced. Reforms to the Texas Medical Board and medical liability laws stayed intact. Heated debates halted compromise end-of-life legislation put forth by prominent pro-life and religious groups in Texas in collaboration with TMA, hospitals, and disability groups. But physicians still have access to existing safe harbors under the Texas Advance Directives Act for resolving conflicts out of court, without being forced to violate their moral beliefs and professional ethics.