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February 7, 2000     (512) 463-0300

Senate Health Services Meets at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

HOUSTON - The Senate Health Services Committee held a public hearing Monday, February 7, 2000, in the LeMaistre Ballroom at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. This is the second of three hearings planned outside of Austin to study interim charges issued by Lt. Governor Rick Perry. Members of the committee include Senators Jane Nelson of Flower Mound serving as chair, Mike Moncrief of Fort Worth serving as vice-chair, Jon Lindsay of Houston, Frank L. Madla of San Antonio, and Drew Nixon of Carthage. Houston Senator Mario Gallegos and Houston State Representative Dr. Kyle Janek joined the committee for the proceedings.

The committee opened the hearing with invited testimony relating to assessing the preparedness of the Texas health care workforce including methods to retain Texas-trained medical personnel and evaluating the availability of healthcare providers in rural and urban areas. Testimony began with invited presentations from Dr. Ben Raimer, MD and Dr. Sally Robinson, MD, both representing the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), about the successes of the UTMB Telemedicine System. Dr. Robinson and Bobby Berg, RN MSN PNP, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner of UTMB Galveston, testified remotely from Galveston using the telemedicine system, including an interactive example of a patient/doctor visit using the system. T. Howard Stone, Assistant Professor, and Deborah Seale, Administrator, also testified representing UTMB. Committee members were particularly interested in the types of services available through telemedicine, equipment costs, legal impacts relating to diagnosis and physician licensing, and billing issues relating to third party payers.

Others testifying on issues relating to the health care workforce included Catherine E. Smith, a medical student at Baylor College of Medicine; Dr. Tim Coleridge representing the Texas Academy of Family Physicians; A. David Axelrod MD, Psychiatrist, representing TSPP; Anthony Cagle representing Vidimedix Corporation; and Dr. Jim Baumgartner MD, Pediatric Neurosurgeon, representing UT Houston Pediatric Neurosurgery.

The committee then heard testimony from Don Gilbert, Commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, relating to the committee's charge to evaluate the changes in the Medicaid system since the beginning of Medicaid reform. Also testifying on charge one were Leah Rummel representing the Texas Associations of Health Plans; John Kajander, Chief Administrative Officer representing TIRR Systems; Steven Schne PhD, Executive Director of Harris County MHMR; Christopher M. Born, President, Texas Children's Health Plans; Dr. H. N. Williston MD, representing himself; Douglas Clarkson, Attorney representing Columbia/HCA; Dr. Lewis Fox MD representing himself; Betsy Schwartz representing Mental Health Association of Greater Houston; Tim Graves, President of Texas Health Care Association; Dr. Owen B. Ellington MD, Vice-President & Medical Director of Americaid; Ron Jordan representing MHS, Inc.; and Dr. Denise Ingham MD representing Americaid & MHMR.

Public testimony was taken on charge two relating to biotechnology and genetic research. Testifying were Mark A. Rothstein, Director of Health Law and Policy Institute at the University of Houston; Robert Kennedy, Vice-President of Research at Texas A&M University; Terry A. Young Executive Director of Technical Licensing Office of Texas A&M University; Fuller Bazer, Interim Vice-President for Research for Texas A&M University; James Patrick, Vice-President and Dean of Research for the Baylor College of Medicine; and Connie Luthy representing The Luthy Group.

Public testimony was taken on charge three, relating to medical privacy, from Jennifer Low, Attorney representing Express Scripts, Inc.; and Mark A. Rothstein.

Public testimony was taken on charge four relating to the vaccinations for children from Dr. Sharilyn K. Stanley MD, Associate Commissioner for the Texas Department of Health.

Don Gilbert also reported the status of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIPs), reporting that the program will start in May, two months ahead of schedule.

The next hearing will be held in April. The committee will report its findings in the form of a report to be presented to the 77th Legislature which convenes in January of 2001.

Click here to listen to the hearing in RealAudio format.

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