Texas may consider telemedicine legislation

The growing use of telemedicine by Texas consumers is raising questions for the state about how best to regulate it.

Telemedicine has been used in Texas since the 1980s, mostly to treat patients in hard-to-reach locations such as rural areas, oil rigs, or prisons, and traditionally has taken place from internet-connected clinics staffed by professionals. As telemedicine technology has evolved over the past two decades, some Texas-based companies now can connect patients to doctors through a smartphone app without a brick-and-mortar clinic visit.

In 2015, the Texas Medical Board adopted rules in response to these technological advances, and Dallas-based Teladoc, Inc. brought a legal challenge that same year to block the rules. With legal action still pending in 2017, the 85th Legislature may consider legislation to address the issues raised by the lawsuit, as well as other topics in the delivery of telemedicine medical services. Continue reading

Posted in Health and Human Services, Public Health | Tagged , , , ,

Regulating transportation network companies in Texas

In Texas, a growing number of cities have passed municipal ordinances to regulate transportation network companies (TNCs), such as Uber and Lyft. TNCs are businesses that connect paying riders to drivers, usually through smartphone apps. They compete directly with taxicabs to fill the gap between public transit and private vehicle ownership by providing on-demand transportation without the cost of owning a vehicle.

Although TNCs are subject to local rules in most of the Texas cities in which they operate, state lawmakers had enacted no specific statewide TNC regulation until 2015, when the 84th Legislature established minimum insurance requirements for TNC drivers.

As of November 2016, at least 31 states had chosen to preempt municipal regulation of TNCs and instead establish statewide regulations. The 84th Texas Legislature considered but did not enact similar proposals in 2015 and may consider them again during this year’s regular session of the 85th Legislature. Continue reading

Posted in Regulation and Licensing, Transportation | Tagged , , ,

State may consider revising ‘right to correct’ for nursing homes

State lawmakers this past interim discussed ways to enhance the quality of long-term care facilities in the state, including whether to limit “right-to-correct” laws that allow providers to avoid state penalties by addressing certain violations within a specified time. Legislation that would have restricted providers’ right to correct violations was considered but not enacted in 2015 by the 84th Legislature. Similar proposals could emerge this legislative session.

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TEA seeks funds to boost school internet connectivity

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is asking the Legislature to spend $25 million in fiscal 2018 to help school districts qualify for a federal program that discounts optical fiber construction projects. The agency said the $25 million state investment ultimately could leverage an estimated $250 million in federal funds for projects to improve internet connectivity and speed in Texas classrooms.

TEA included the one-year funding as a desired “exceptional item” above its proposed baseline budget in its fiscal 2018-19 legislative appropriations request. The 85th Legislature will begin considering state agency budget requests soon after it convenes in January 2017. Continue reading

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Texas state parks planning updates with dedicated funding

Over the next few years, the state park system in Texas will undergo several repairs and renovations made possible by newly dedicated funding. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), legislation enacted by the 84th Legislature in 2015 to dedicate funding for parks will allow the department to address longstanding maintenance issues, as well as make repairs needed after recent extreme weather.

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