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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

WOW! TEXAS LEGISLATURE DELIVERS FOR DOCTORS AND PATIENTS

It’s all over but the shouting — and the bill signings, and the special session that began last night. Clichés and hyperbole aside, the 2013 Texas Legislature will earn an outstanding report card from medicine, as lawmakers delivered on so many pieces of our agenda.

  • BUDGET: Legislators wrote a big increase in funding for mental health services to go along with key changes in our mental health screening and education systems. The big cuts in women’s health services from 2011 were reversed — and then some. Funds to the State Physician Education Loan Repayment Program were restored. Graduate medical education took a return step towards the positive side.
  • RED TAPE CUT: Six of our hassle-busting bills passed, and one — letting patients sign in with a swipe of their driver license — already has Gov. Rick Perry’s signature. The others will bring uniform prior authorization forms for medications and medical services, a much more streamlined way for renewing your state Controlled Substances Registration, and significant simplifications in complying with the state’s medical privacy law.
  • INSURANCE: It took us more than six years, but we never gave up, and our bill to regulate silent PPOs is now law. Governor Perry signed it on Saturday. Waiting on his desk is a similar bill that would stop Medicaid HMOs from selling or trading your discounted rates.
  • SCOPE: Our landmark bill that sets up a more collaborative, delegated practice among physicians and advanced practice nurses or physician assistants is waiting for the governor to sign. It firmly establishes the physician-led medical team. Governor Perry already signed a truth-in-advertising law for identification badges in the hospital.
  • PUBLIC HEALTH: Better food choices in public schools, immunization policies at day care centers, and a tax break on vaccine stock in physicians’ offices are all just a signature away from becoming law.
  • MEDICAID: A bill passed to restore some due process rights to physicians accused of Medicaid fraud. We passed a prompt-pay law for Medicaid HMOs; no more low-pay, slow-pay, no-pay.
  • MORE: Tax relief for small businesses — like so many Texas physicians’ practices — passed. Attacks on our tort reforms, inappropriate scope-of-practice expansions, and bills weakening the Texas Medical Board did not. We won approval of a measure stopping off-shore medical schools from buying up clerkship spots in Texas hospitals, and we won repeal of a 2011 law that forced international medical graduates to spend three years working in medically underserved areas. New medical schools are coming to Austin and the Rio Grande Valley. 
Our outstanding lobby team burned far too much midnight oil and wore out far too many shoes keeping this whole thing on track for you. Much thanks goes to our Board of Trustees and Council on Legislation members who traveled here frequently to testify — as did so many other Texas physicians. First Tuesdays at the Capitol was another rousing success. Once again, wow!
 

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