TMA Legislative News Hotline

FEDERAL UPDATE
It’s foolish, but — unfortunately — not an April Fool’s Day joke. Because the U.S. Senate left for Easter recess without taking up the bill to repeal Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, a 21-percent Medicare pay cut automatically is in effect for services provided from today forward. The U.S. House of Representatives, led by Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), overwhelmingly passed HR 2, the Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act, on March 24. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has pledged to take up the bill quickly when senators reconvene April 13. TMA also appreciates the support of Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, and will work with him during the two-week recess to ensure the Senate passes the bill and quickly puts a stake into the SGR. TMA also urges all Texas physicians to send calls and letters into Sen. Ted Cruz’s office. Tell Senator Cruz that:
• Delaying a decision on SGR repeal puts physician practices, and the Medicare and TRICARE patients they serve, at risk.
• The SGR has never controlled Medicare costs and never will. It’s time to, as TMA President Austin King, MD, says, “remove this annual albatross from around the necks of Texas physicians.”
• Even if, for some reason, he opposes HR 2, we ask Senator Cruz not to stand in the way of a quick Senate vote on this critical piece of legislation.
Look for an article in today’s issue of TMA’s Action newsletter for more information on how the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will handle claims for services provided after today.

BUDGET UPDATE
What were you doing at 5:40 am today? The Texas House of Representatives was concluding a 17-hour budget amendment-vetting session by passing House Bill 1, 141-5. House members were asked to consider 354 amendments. The House budget is $210 billion, which includes $460 million in general revenue funds to increase Medicaid payments to Medicare levels for many primary care physicians and providers. The budget is $2 billion under the spending cap. The House proposal includes increased funding for tobacco cessation, women’s health, mental health, medical education and graduate medical education, and Medicaid payments to physicians and providers. TMA is still analyzing the details.

UNDER THE ROTUNDA
Today House members take up House Bill 2, a supplemental appropriations bill for the current state budget. It primarily provides funding to cover Medicaid caseload growth and shore up the Teacher Retirement System.
And today in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, members heard testimony on Senate Bill 1753 by Sen. Donna Campbell, MD (R-New Braunfels), which would clarify the ID badge requirements for all licensed practitioners providing patient care in hospitals. David Gloyna, MD, from Temple testified in support of the bill on behalf of both the Texas Society of Anesthesiologists and TMA. Heather Aguirre, DO, a family practice resident from Corpus Christi, also testified in favor of SB 1753. Opposition was voiced by groups representing nursing and other professions as well as the Texas Hospital Association.

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