A Message from Pradeep Kumar, MD, Chair, Legislative Committee

Dear TSGE Members,

I hope you are all doing well after the week of freezing cold weather we endured here in Texas. In Austin, as in many other cities, power and water issues forced us to close our practices for the week. We are working on getting patients taken care of to the best of our ability. We wish you fortitude as you navigate the return to normalcy and hope your practices and patients do not suffer too much.

On the Legislative front, the Texas State Legislature has been in session since January 12, 2021 and is scheduled to adjourn May 31, 2021. Because of COVID restrictions, business is being run differently and the opportunity for in person meetings as well as lobbying has been curtailed. The only item the Legislature is legally bound to do during any Session is to pass a Budget. Because of the COVID induced shortfall, this is expected to occupy more time and energy than usual. The latest freezing weather may also bring to light other issues regarding the electrical grid that may need to be addressed. The issues related to Medicine that we foresee being raised during this Session would be:

  1. Telemedicine payment parity to in office visits
  2. Scope of practice
  3. Medicaid Expansion or least prevent Contraction

There has already been a bill filed for Telemedicine Parity. The deadline for unrestricted filing of bills and joint resolutions other than local bills, emergency appropriations and those submitted by the Governor is Friday March 12, 2021.

Your TSGE Legislative Committee and our excellent lobbyist Marshall Kenderdine are keeping a close eye on these bills as they are filed and work their way through Committees. Our current strategy is to have personal relationships with our legislators so that we may best educate them about the issues important to the patients of Texas. To achieve our strategic goals, we have identified the Committees and their Chairs in both the House and Senate that affect legislation related to patient care.

These are:

Senate Committees

  1. Finance Committee: Chair, Sen. Jane Nelson (R – Flower Mound, Senate District 12)
  2. Health and Human Services: Chair, Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R – Brenham, Senate District 18)
  3. Business and Commerce: Chair, Sen. Kelly Hancock (R – North Richland Hills, Senate District 9)

House Committees

  1. Appropriations: Chair, Rep. Greg Bonnen, MD (R – Friendswood, House District 24)
  2. Public Health: Chair, Rep. Stephanie Klick (R – Fort Worth, House District 91)
  3. Insurance: Chair, Rep. Tom Oliverson, MD (R – Cypress, House District 130)
  4. Human Services: Chair, Rep. James Frank (R – Wichita Falls, House District 69)

We request TSGE Members who are constituents of these legislators to let us know who you are. You may email our Executive Director Ky Camero at ky.camero@texmed.org. As bills work their way through these Committees, we may call upon you to contact your legislator for an opportunity to educate them. The better we know amongst our membership who is able to communicate with these legislators, the defter we can be in our response to affecting bills.

Another update will follow the March 12 filing deadline, but for now, we wish you success in your continued efforts to recover from the week of freeze and the ongoing global pandemic. As the weather in Austin is to be a high of 72 degrees today and sunny, the numbers of new COVID infections tumble, and vaccine delivery increases I hear in my head this song by the Beatles:

"Little darlin', it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darlin', it seems like years since it's been here

Here comes the sun do, do, do
Here comes the sun
And I say, it's all right"

Respectfully submitted,

Pradeep Kumar MD
Austin Gastroenterology, PA
Chair, Legislative Committee
President-Elect TSGE