Capitol Update: Senate committee approves bill to increase access to primary care
The Senate Committee on Higher Education approved Senate Bill 143 Wednesday, April 3, which would strengthen the physician workforce in Texas. TAFP supports the bill and worked with the office of Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, to craft it.
“As our population continues to grow – and more Texans come into the health care system – we have to address the critical shortages in our health care workforce,” Nelson said in an April 3 statement. “In order for our citizens to have access to care, we must ensure there is an adequate network of properly trained physicians available to treat them.”
S.B. 143 aims to improve access to primary health care for Texans by:
- Establishing the Resident Physician Expansion Grant Program in order to produce new residency positions;
- Establishing the Graduate Medical Education Planning Grant Program to encourage the creation of new residency programs in hospitals without current programs;
- Establishing an incentive program for medical schools that produce more primary care physicians;
- Establishing an incentive program for medical schools that develop new methods to produce more primary care physicians for the state; and
- Allowing physicians who treat Medicaid patients or Texas Women's Health Program patients to participate in the Physician Education Loan Repayment Program.
Texas currently faces a shortage of physicians of all types, with 129 counties designated as Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas. To get the physicians the state needs now and in the future, we must train them here. More than 70 percent of family doctors completing residency in Texas stay here to practice, but while enrollment in Texas medical schools has increased by more than 31 percent since 2002, the number of first-year residency positions has not kept pace. The reforms proposed by S.B. 143 will expand the state’s ability to recruit, educate, and train the next generation of physicians Texas so badly needs.
TAFP President Troy Fiesinger, M.D., gave testimony to the Senate Committee on Higher Education during a S.B. 143 hearing on Wednesday, March 27.
“I very much look forward to the opportunity to potentially expand, but you can’t expand without accountability. I think this Senate bill lays out accountability and transparency in a very important way to help us move forward,” said Fiesinger. He added that the bill would “allow not just hospitals, but community health centers, county health centers, federally qualified health centers, to fund and obtain new residency positions.”
On Texas’ rapid growth and need for more physicians, Fiesinger added that “we need to grow more physicians to meet that need. We want to look at not just the need, but how many physicians we have, what kind of physicians we are training, what does the state need.”
S.B. 143 will now move to the full Senate for consideration. TAFP will continue to keep you informed on its status.
Thanks to the Physicians of the Day
Few spots remain in April and May
Thanks to the physicians who volunteered to serve as Physician of the Day recently: Steven Stoltz, M.D., of Mission; Nick Giannone, M.D., of Lake Jackson; Angela Guerra, M.D., of Austin; Julie Reardon, M.D., of Austin; John Egerton, M.D., and Judith Egerton, M.D., of Austin; Fred Merian, M.D., of Wimberley; George Hugman, M.D., of Nacogdoches; Lesca Hadley, M.D., of Cleburne; David Palafox, M.D., of El Paso; Paul Berg, M.D., of Georgetown; Troy Fiesinger, M.D., of Sugar Land; and Joane Baumer, M.D., of Fort Worth.
The Physician of the Day program brings family physicians to the Capitol each day of the legislative session to provide health care to members of the Capitol community. A few dates in April and May are still available. 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.