Legislative Updates

Together, we can and do make a difference.

HCMS and TMA represent the majority of Texas physicians. With more than 11,500 physicians in Harris County and nearly 50,000 in Texas, we have a strong voice in the Texas Capitol, with significant influence on medical legislation and socioeconomic issues that affect physicians, their practices, and their patients. With your membership and participation, we can and do make a difference!

Committee Assignments of the 87th Texas Legislature

Check out all current senators and the committees on which they serve.

2021 Texas Legislative Priorities

For more details on Texas Legislative Priorities, visit https://www.texmed.org/legislature/

Provide Meaningful Health Care Coverage

Texas already had the highest uninsured rate in the nation before the COVID-19 pandemic, and millions more are now unemployed and uninsured. The state budget also has been negatively affected by the pandemic, meaning creative approaches to expanding coverage must be explored. One such option is drawing down a 9-to-1 match – up from a 6-to-1 match – in federal funds to extend coverage to the working poor. A recent study found Texas could achieve a net savings of $110 million (general revenue) over the next biennium by providing meaningful coverage to the uninsured. TMA will continue to work with legislative leaders on a solution to ensuring all Texans can access the health care they need when they need it.

Preserve Patient Access to Care With Telemedicine Payment Parity

The use of telemedicine has increased exponentially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, aided in large part by state and federal protections and flexibilities that allow for payment parity and the use of audio-only telemedicine services. But those flexibilities are contingent upon declaration of a national emergency, which remains in effect only until Jan. 20. TMA has called on federal and state leaders to make those flexibilities permanent – and will continue to do so throughout the 2021 session.

Reduce Health Insurance Prior Authorization Red Tape

Prior authorizations by insurance companies were intended as a check and balance for high cost and uncommon procedures. Over the past five years, prior authorizations for health care and prescriptions have increased – leading to higher out-of-pocket costs, delays in needed care, and adverse outcomes for patients. Nearly half of Texas physicians have staff dedicated solely to prior authorizations, not patient care. TMA will work to strengthen these reforms so patients can access care when needed.

Strengthen Texas’ Public Health Care Infrastructure

The pandemic continues to strain Texas’ already limited public health resources and highlight existing gaps in its infrastructure. The state’s outdated data systems are ill-equipped to help with real response to disease outbreaks and surveillance across the state. Funding is needed to ensure we are prepared for future outbreaks and natural disasters. The Texas economy cannot afford the cost of not having a strong public health infrastructure. TMA will continue to advocate for adequate life-saving resources.

Ensure Patient Safety Through Team-Based Care

In 2020, both California and Florida enacted independent prescribing for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). APRNs and other groups are expected to push for further unsupervised encroachments into the practice of medicine in Texas. As in past sessions, TMA will vigorously defend patient safety afforded by the physician-led team model of care.

Prevent Taxes on Medical Billing Services

TMA and a coalition of more than 40 organizations and companies are working on an amendment to the Texas Tax Code that would ensure third-party medical billing services are not subject to sales and use tax, a tax that would negatively impact patient access to care. Thanks to TMA advocacy, Comptroller Glenn Hegar delayed the start date to Oct. 1, 2021, giving TMA time to work with lawmakers this session to prevent the tax’s implementation.

Preserve Funding for Texas’ Medical Residency Programs

It’s no secret physicians stay in the states where they receive their specialized medical residency training. That’s why Texas needs to invest in graduate medical education (GME) as we build more medical schools to train our next generation of physicians. Otherwise, we are using Texas taxpayer funding to train physicians for other states. TMA is asking legislators to retain funding for these essential programs.

Prevent Youth Addiction to Nicotine

Increasing taxes on tobacco products has been shown to reduce consumption, preventing future nicotine addiction and saving lives. Instituting an excise tax on e-cigarettes to achieve parity with combustible cigarettes will provide much needed additional revenue to the state. TMA will continue to advocate for solutions that prevent Texas youth from becoming addicted to nicotine.

Retain Texas’ Landmark Medical Liability Reforms

Passed in 2003, Texas’ sweeping liability reforms have helped to curb health care lawsuit abuse and ensure Texans have access to high-quality medical care. As in past sessions, TMA will vigorously defend against efforts to dilute these important medical liability reforms.

86th Texas Legislature 2019 Wrap-Up

The work of the 86th Texas Legislature ended when Governor Greg Abbott signed his last bill. Now we can assess what happened, and equally importantly, what did not happen this session. 

Among those bills the Governor signed was Senate Bill 1742 by Senator Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio). This bill requires greater transparency with prior authorizations and requires health plan directories to clearly identify which physician specialties are in-network at network facilities. This bill was a top priority for HCMS this session.

The governor also signed House Bill 3284 by Representative J.D. Sheffield, DO (R-Gatesville) which delays the mandate to check the prescription monitoring program (PMP) until March 2020. The Texas Medical Association fought hard for the delay to give the PMP time to fully integrate with physicians’ electronic records systems. This reduces the hassle involved in using an important clinical tool. HB 3284 also requires electronic prescribing of opioids unless a waiver is granted. Electronic prescribing diminishes the chance of opioids being misused.

Get Engaged

  • Attend your local Branch Meetings and communicate with your colleagues about concerns and problems you encounter. Through interaction and discussion, Branch officers can get an understanding of the overarching issues and then bring these to the forefront on behalf of their Branch members. This is the beginning phase for determining future legislative plans and efforts.
  • Join us for First Tuesdays at the Capitol. Senators and representatives listen far better when their physician constituents show up in person. First Tuesdays are held in February, March, April and May during the regular Texas legislative session. The Texas Legislature meets every other year in odd numbered years.
  • Know who your local representatives are and contact them.
  • Take the next step and become part of the HCMS Delegation to TMA.

Additional Legislative Resources