The curtain has closed on the 87th legislative session, reminding me of the lyrics from one of my favorite Willie Nelson songs: “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”

As lawmakers head back to their respective districts, they’ll return to their “day job” until our first special session is called later this summer.

I’m personally relieved to be back home surrounded by family and the people I care for so deeply. Spending five months away from loved ones and constituents does indeed make the heart grow fonder. And while my “honey-do” list will keep me busy around the house and farm for quite some time, I’m looking forward to seeing many of you across House District 57 in the coming months to catch up on what I’ve missed and discuss what’s on your mind.

With that, here’s an update from your state Capitol.

With session in the rearview mirror, I’ll be using the next several columns to touch on noteworthy pieces of legislation — now state law — that will impact the lives of East Texans. Additionally, if you have an interest in a particular law, or are curious about the fate of a piece of legislation that was introduced this past session, please don’t hesitate to contact our Capitol office.

This week we’ll take a deeper dive into House Bill 4, which works to improve access to health care for Texans, especially those in rural and medically underserved areas. I was pleased to serve as a joint author of this bill, which will allow physicians to offer a more robust set of services to patients via telehealth/telemedicine.

The need for the bill was, of course, exacerbated by the recent pandemic, but in our area and other rural parts of the state, the access-to-care gap for both specialty and primary care physicians is particularly acute.

In fact, in the last 10 years, there have been nearly 30 rural hospital closures in the state of Texas. These closures were due, almost exclusively, to financial issues.

One answer to closing this gap in access, while also providing some extra resources for the provider, is to utilize technology to connect families with their doctor. House Bill 4 does this by codifying the state’s ability to reimburse providers for teleservices they perform on patients without private health insurance.

It’s my hope and expectation that the ability to accept payment for these services will incentivize more to provide them as an option for patients. Some examples of services now eligible for reimbursement include preventative health, physical therapy and nutritional counseling.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. My district office may be reached at 634-2762.

Additionally, I welcome you to follow along on my official Facebook page, where I will be posting regular updates on what’s happening in your state Capitol and sharing information that could be useful to you and your family: facebook.com/RepTrentAshby.

Trent Ashby is the state representative for District 57 that includes Angelina, Houston, Leon, Madison, San Augustine and Trinity counties. His email address is trent.ashby@house.state.tx.us.