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Monday, June 1, 2015

Medicine Stands Tall as Legislature Adjourns

Medicine’s advocates walk away from the 84th Texas Legislature, which ends today, with heads held high. The physicians who contacted their representatives and senators; the dozens who testified before committees; the hundreds who took part in First Tuesdays at the Capitol; and the staff at TMA, county medical societies, and state specialty societies all played important roles. Physicians won relief from a major practice hassle, increases in graduate medical education (GME) funding, big changes in Medicaid operations, health insurance reforms, and victories in the public health and mental health arenas. Among the most important victories:
  • Funding to expand GME slots received a $40 million boost; 

  • Texas’ Controlled Substance Permit will be eliminated as of Sept. 1, 2016;

  • Absolutely none of the proposed dangerous expansions of mid-level practitioners’ scope of practice passed;

  • Two priorities of TMA’s Behavioral Health Task Force won approval;

  • TMA stopped several bills that would have banned balance billing for out-of-network services;

  • E-cigarette sales to minors were outlawed; and

  • Physicians’ annual $200 occupation tax was repealed. 
Unfortunately, efforts to boost Medicaid payment rates and some other pieces of TMA’s Health Vision 2020 plan came up short. We’ll have to keep working on those for next session. Also, the bill banning texting while driving died in the Texas Senate, our bill prohibiting health plans’ use of virtual credit cards to pay for health care services didn’t make it through the House, and a measure allowing the use of low-THC cannabinoid oil will get Gov. Greg Abbot’s signature.

For more details, look for a special issue of Action later this week, a video wrap-up in Friday’s TMA Legislative News Hotline, and a full review of the session in the August issue of Texas Medicine.

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