Capitol Update: House, Senate lay out
Both the House and the Senate laid out their versions of the budget last week, each maintaining spending at about the same levels set by the previous Legislature. Senate Bill 1 would spend $187.7 billion in both state and federal funds in 2014 and 2015. House Bill 1 would spend $186.8 billion.
For family medicine, the bills contain some good news. The Physician Education Loan Repayment Program, which sustained a 76 percent cut last session, would receive $33.8 million for the biennium. The program pays up to $160,000 of medical education debt for physicians who agree to practice for four years in health professional shortage areas. After last session, the program closed enrollment, so no new physicians are currently being admitted. The Texas Primary Care Office at the Department of State Health Services has reported that the reduced level of funding could affect health care access for 1.1 million Texans.
Both bills hold funding for family medicine residency programs at $5.6 million for the biennium, which is $21.2 million less than they were scheduled to receive in 2010 and 2011. Restoration of those funds is among TAFP’s top priorities. The Senate Finance Committee has begun hearing testimony on the budget, and TAFP will be there making the case that support for family medicine residency programs is crucial to the development and production of the primary care physician workforce Texas needs.
Serve as Physician of the Day
Thanks to the physicians who volunteered for the Physician of the Day program in the last two weeks: Max Latham, M.D., of Bowie; Ron McMurry, M.D., of Jasper; TAFP President-elect Clare Hawkins, M.D., of Houston, who brought family medicine resident Joshua Splinter, M.D.; and Jorge Duchicela, M.D., of Weimar, who brought family medicine resident Estella Mota, M.D.
The Physician of the Day program brings a family physician to the Capitol each day of the legislative session to provide health care to members of the Capitol community. Dates are still available throughout the session. For more information on how to sign up and to view the calendar of open dates, go to the Physician of the Day page of the TAFP website, www.tafp.org/advocacy/get-involved/physician-of-the-day.