Texas House releases interim charges

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Texas House releases interim charges

posted 11.01.11

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, has released the House interim charges for 2011-2012, tasking the standing committees to study a variety of issues that will “provide a blueprint for legislation” to be considered during the next legislative session, Straus wrote in an Oct. 20 letter accompanying the charges. Committee reports are due Dec. 1, 2012, and the 83rd Legislature convenes in January 2013.

In addition to specific charges, all committees have been asked to study and make recommendations for improving the state’s manufacturing capability, and to identify ways to increase transparency, accountability, and efficiency in state government.

The meetings, hearings, and lobbying that occur between legislative sessions will have a great impact on the climate of the upcoming political season. As legislators check off their charges, here are the tasks that may affect the practice of family medicine.

The Committee on Appropriations is charged with monitoring the implementation of cost-savings initiatives in health and human services programs directed by House Bill 1, the state budget, and Senate Bill 7, the omnibus health and human services efficiencies bill. The Legislative Budget Board estimated that measures in S.B. 7 could save $468 million over the 2012-2013 biennium by expanding Medicaid managed care into South Texas and creating incentives for doctors and hospitals to form “health care collaboratives” that provide coordinated, more efficient care. This charge will measure progress of the legislation, and also includes studying changes in hospital reimbursement methodology.

Also to Appropriations goes a charge to “study existing financing mechanisms and delivery methods for long-term services and supports in the Texas Medicaid program.” This includes studying successful programs in other states, presumably like the patient-centered medical home model that generated Medicaid savings of $1.5 billion in North Carolina. The committee will make recommendations to simplify and streamline existing programs, and to provide services in a more cost-effective manner to a greater number of beneficiaries, ensuring an appropriate level of services.

A joint charge to the House Committee on Insurance and the House Committee on Public Health is to monitor implementation of the federal health reform law, including changes that may result from court challenges, legislative modification, or repeal.

And finally, a mammoth charge to Public Health tasks the committee with examining the adequacy of the primary care workforce in Texas with consideration for the impact of the aging population, the passage of the health reform law, and state and federal funding cuts to graduate medical education and physician education loan repayment programs.

Committee members must also study the impact of medical school innovations, new practice models, alternative reimbursement strategies, expanded scope of practice to non-physicians, and greater utilization of telemedicine. With all of this, Public Health will make recommendations to increase patient access to primary care and address geographic disparities.

The 2011-2012 legislative interim and election cycle provide a strategic and tactical opportunity to advance family medicine’s top concerns. TAFP is actively forming an omnibus package of reforms—The Primary Care Rescue Act—that aims to repair, rebuild, and restore Texas’ primary care infrastructure to improve quality of care and bend the cost curve. TAFP still needs your input as to what should be included in the act. For more information on how to contribute, read the post on the TAFP blog.