87th Legislature Adjourns Without Passage of HB 1617/SB 207
May 31, 2021 (Austin, Texas) – The Texas Legislature adjourned today without passing Senate Bill 207 or House Bill 1617. Throughout the legislative session, Texas doctors had opposed the bills’ legislative overreach into the independent practice of medicine and their push for government rate setting for physician compensation. More than 60 doctors testified in person in committee hearings to oppose the bills.
“Texas has a proud legacy of supporting free markets and the independent practice of medicine, and we are pleased the Legislature chose to preserve that legacy,” said Andrew Indresano, M.D., orthopedic spine surgeon. “SB 207/HB 1617 were anti-physician and anti-hospital bills and would have created impossible hurdles for independent physician practices, already struggling after more than a year of pandemic-induced closures, clinician burnout, and other challenges.”
SB 207/HB 1617 proposed requiring physicians to choose between accepting payment for care of patients in personal injury cases that is tied to below-cost workers’ compensation reimbursement rates or being subject to abusive discovery of private contracts and information and challenges to their medical judgment and charges by anyone, regardless of their background, education and training, or expertise.
SB 207/HB 1617 were filed, in part, to redress a perceived problem of some judges rejecting counteraffidavits to challenge medical charges in personal injury cases. The bills’ scope, however, extended even further to putting in state statute a standard of fair and reasonable payment tied to the inadequate reimbursement rates of the workers’ compensation program.
The Texas Supreme Court ruled In Re Allstate in early May that current state law does not require an expert in the same field of specialty as the treating doctor to author a counteraffidavit to challenge medical care charges. The ruling accomplished the bills’ goal of opening up the counteraffidavit process.
“Texas lawmakers chose the right path in not pursuing these bills,” said Shawn Hayden, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, orthopedic surgeon. “Our collective focus needs to be on recovering from the pandemic’s devastation and making sure our state’s health care system is as strong as it can be, with the capacity to care for any Texan who needs it. Had these bills passed, Texas would have gone in the wrong direction.”