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Legislative Update - June 2019
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Dear TCEP member,

Over the past 12 months, I have learned that elections matter, relationships influence legislation, and that it is critical for emergency physicians to engage in the legislative process. As I entered this legislative session, one thing stood at the forefront of my mind: to protect the free and independent practice of emergency medicine, a line that sometimes seems to get pushed further and further away from us. Under the leadership of our executive board, government relations committee, and lobbyists, TCEP has done a remarkable job of protecting emergency physicians in the current circumstances. It is incumbent upon emergency physicians to be active participants in the quest for solutions and to always remain strong advocates for their patients.

Our team educated policymakers and staff on the unique nature of emergency medicine, protected the tort reform language of 2003, blocked increased documentation burden around opioid prescriptions, supported increased oversight of health plans’ network adequacy and reimbursement practices, supported improvements in physicians’ ability to care for patients with mental health emergencies, opposed independent practice for APRN’s, and negotiated protections for patients and physicians with the prohibition of balance billing.

The prohibition of surprise medical bills, which was signed into law last week, represents one of the most drastic changes in medical practice that Texas has seen in decades. The lucrative practice environment that welcomed physicians to Texas after residency training in the early 2000s is ostensibly more difficult, unwelcoming, and oppressive today.

We didn’t win everything in 2019 but wins and losses are sometimes difficult to point to with this process. Moving bills further than they have ever gotten before are wins but may look like losses because they didn’t pass. Those who work in freestanding emergency departments saw increased regulations from a legislature whose attitude was generally unfavorable to FSED’s, during a time when many FSED’s are being forced to close and in a year where Texas saw a decrease in emergency physician compensation compared to a national increase.

With Dr. Diana Fite’s and Dr. Arlo Weltge’s recent elections into top positions at the Texas Medical Association, I believe that the 2021 legislative session will be monumental for emergency physicians. We must spend the interim strongly funding our PAC, supporting physician-friendly legislators who are up for election in 2020, and building relationships within the House and the Senate. We need to take advantage of this interim time to build relationships and educate policymakers on the issues important to emergency medicine. You can find a recap of the issues TCEP chose to engage on here, along with an explanation of how Texas’s new law on balance billing will affect physicians here.

Thank you for supporting, encouraging, and giving valuable feedback during my first year as Government Relations Committee chair. As always, please email or call me with any comments, questions, and concerns.

Sincerely,

Theresa Q. Tran, M.D., M.B.A.
Chair, TCEP Government Relations Committee

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