Capitol Update: Senate passes bill to increase residency slots
The Senate passed legislation last week proposed by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, that will strengthen the physician workforce in Texas by expanding the number of residency positions. TAFP helped Nelson craft Senate Bill 143, which aims to improve access to primary health care for Texans by:
- Establishing the Resident Physician Expansion Grant Program 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 innovative programs 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.
The legislation includes $10 million for the creation of new residency slots, $1.5 million for graduate medical education planning grants to encourage hospitals without residency programs to make them, and $33.8 million for physician education loan repayment. The bill now moves to the House for consideration.
The House Committee on Higher Education heard testimony last week on House Bill 3692 by Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas. The bill is similar to S.B. 143, aiming to increase the number of residency training positions available in the state.
TAFP President Troy Fiesinger, M.D., of Sugar Land, testified in front of the committee in favor of the legislation. “This bill will do a very good job of helping us expand where needed,” said Fiesinger. The bill was left pending by the committee.
Also last week, the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Budget Transparency and Reform heard testimony on H.B. 3791, authored by John Zerwas, R-Richmond. The bill will allow the state some flexibility in negotiating ways to use the federal matching funds in the Medicaid program to expand coverage to adults making less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
TAFP Past President Douglas Curran, M.D., of Athens, testified for the bill in front of the committee. “For both economic and human reasons, Texas must find a way to expand coverage to its low income and working poor,” said Curran. The House Appropriations Committee passed the bill by vote of 15-9 on Tuesday, April 23.
Update on Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition
The Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition met last week to update members on the state budget in regards to women’s health and what the coalition’s next steps are. Janet Realini, M.D., TAFP member and chair of the coalition, discussed the funding and riders in the Senate and House budget bills regarding the DSHS Family Planning Program, community primary care services, and the Texas Women’s Health Program. As it stands, the Senate allotted just over $43 million for the DSHS program distributed equally between FY 2014 and FY 2015, while the House allocated a little more than $75 million for both years. Both the Senate and House allotted almost $71.3 million for the Texas Women’s Health Program.
Chief of Staff to Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, Hunter Hughes, spoke on behalf of Davis, saying there is “close to a half billion of funding going toward women’s health initiatives in the budget.” He also thanked the coalition for “getting boots on the ground” this session and educating legislators and their staffs on women’s health care issues.
Thanks to the Physicians of the Day
Thanks to the physicians who recently volunteered to serve as Physician of the Day: Gabriel Ortiz, M.D., of San Antonio; N. Chris Lawrence, M.D., of McKinney; John Frederick, M.D., of Austin; Erica Swegler, M.D., of Keller; Steven Bander, D.O., of Wylie; Jake Margo, M.D., of Rio Grande City; Georgeanne Freeman, D.O., of Austin; and Dana Sprute, M.D., of Austin.
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. This tradition started in 1971 and TAFP has provided a physician in the Capitol for every legislative session including special sessions since. The Physician of the Day is introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives each day and his or her name becomes a permanent part of the official legislative record.
Thank you again to all of our physicians who volunteered during the 83rd Texas Legislature – all dates have been filled through the end of the session.