Now that the Texas legislative session has finally come to a close, it’s time to look at a couple of pieces of legislation that didn’t garner as much coverage as the session’s hot-button topics — education and property tax reform.
■ Health care and insurance: Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign Senate Bill 1264, which eliminates surprise medical bills. The legislation passed with overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats. The law will leave out-of-network disputes to be handled by insurers and health care providers. However, the law won’t protect all Texans from these unwanted bills. It goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020, but only applies to patients with state-regulated insurance plans.
In addition, the new laws also will make prescription drug pricing more transparent and provide stronger standards for freestanding emergency rooms.
■ Abbott also signed SB 21, which raises the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21, except for military personnel.
■ Unfortunately, House Bill 2099 didn’t make it out of the Senate. That bill would have, on a patient by patient basis, prohibit insurance companies from non-medical switching of a patient’s medications. It can often take months or years for many Texans to find the right medication and dosage to ensure they are able to live a fulfilling life. Non-medical switching happens when insurance companies remove a previously covered drug from their list of covered drugs, increase the co-pay, prohibit the use of co-pay coupons, which can make it more affordable, or move the drug up to a higher cost tier in their plan.
■ Lawmakers also failed to do anything to fix a growing health care problem. Texas has the nation’s worst uninsured rate for kids, the nation’s worst uninsured rate for women of childbearing age and the nation’s worst uninsured rate for adults.
■ Telemarketing: At this time, HB 1992 also is awaiting Abbott’s signature. The measure prohibits telemarketers or businesses from caller ID spoofing, which occurs when a caller tampers with the information transmitted to an individuals caller ID to disguise their identity. That means telemarketers using a third-party source to make calls to the public must ensure the number that appears on people’s caller ID matches the number of the third party, or the number of the entity that has contracted with the third party.
Federal law already mandates that telemarketers must transmit a telephone number and, when possible, a name that matches the telemarketer or business on caller ID. But most importantly, the state bill clarifies that the Texas attorney general may prosecute telemarketing companies that display misleading information on caller ID.