Capitol Update: Agreement on Rainy Day Fund doesn’t avert steep cuts
|+||TAFP past president testifies on corporate practice of medicine|
|+||Thanks to the Physicians of the Day|
This week Gov. Rick Perry and House budget writers agreed to use $3.1 billion from the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund — a.k.a. the Rainy Day Fund — to help close a $4 billion hole in the current biennium’s budget. Since the House budget as filed contains emergency funding to cover that shortfall, drawing from the Rainy Day Fund frees the same amount to be put back into the 2012-2013 budget.
It does not, however, come close to solving the looming shortfall, now estimated to be about $23 billion. Public education, health and human services, and higher education will all still be subject to deep cuts. Gov. Perry made it clear that he would not allow lawmakers to use additional Rainy Day Funds in 2012-2013. The House budget could be voted out of committee by next week and scheduled for floor debate by the entire House before the end of the month.
In the Senate, budget deliberations have been a bit more difficult. Chief budget writer Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, has said passing such a stark budget in the Senate is likely impossible. Therefore the Senate version can be expected to be higher, and the real wrangling will happen in conference committee.
The House County Affairs Committee heard a bill on Thursday, March 10, that would permit physician employment by a hospital. House Bill 1565, by Rep. Garnett Coleman, D-Houston, who chairs the committee, would allow a hospital district to employ physicians and “retain all or part of the professional income generated by the physician for medical services,” according to the bill text. This “may not be construed as authorizing a hospital district to supervise or control the practice of medicine.”
Coleman also filed H.B. 1568, specifically to allow physician employment by the Harris County Hospital District. A similar bill passed last session allows Parkland hospital to hire physicians; Coleman told the committee that, as a result, the hospital has realized considerable cost savings.
Douglas Curran, M.D., a family physician from Athens, TAFP past president, and member of TMA’s Board of Trustees, testified at the hearing. He said that Parkland’s experience provides a good framework for expansion of this privilege to other hospitals.
“We think the model that’s been used thus far is a good model because it’s physician-driven,” Curran said at the hearing. “If you look at what they’re doing, the medical executive board of the hospital is directing and supervising physician care, it’s doing peer review, it’s doing quality assurance, it’s doing all the things that don’t allow for violation of the patient-physician relationship.”
“We really want to maintain that sacred nature because it’s really important that the doctor and the patient can still make the decisions.”
Thanks to the physicians who volunteered for the Physician of the Day program this week: Mitchell Finnie, M.D., of San Antonio; Syed Azhar, M.D., of Houston; Antony Anderson, M.D., of Grand Prairie; and Kelly Alberda, M.D., of Austin.
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 in April and May. 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.