TMA Political Pulse: Two Shelby County Legislators sponsor TMA Bills

See below for an excerpt from TMA’s Political Pulse email from 1/27/23, where Rep. Kevin Vaughan (R-Collierville) and Rep. Tom Leatherwood (R-Arlington) have signed on to bills seeking to address balance billing and physician wellness. We are grateful for their support!

Legislative Update
TMA Secures Sponsors for 2023 Legislative Priorities,
AMA Offering Candidate Workshops

With bill filing deadline looming just around the corner, lawmakers and lobbyists shuffled through the halls of the Cordell Hull building this week in search of legislative sponsors. Like others, TMA’s government affairs team spent the week gearing up for a heavy load this session in anticipation of its five priority issues: scope of practice, physician wellness, prior authorization, balance billing, and the abortion “trigger” law correction.

In coordination with the Coalition for Collaborative Care (CCC) TMA will once again work to defend against unsafe scope of practice expansions for mid-level providers. Following a Senate Commerce & Labor work group last fall in which TMA testified, two bills were filed that seek to change the team-based care model.
*TMA will know more information about sponsors for these measures once bill filing deadline closes next week.

Sen. Richard Briggs, MD (R-Knoxville) | Rep. Tom Leatherwood (R-Arlington)
Currently in Tennessee, some health insurance plans and hospital credentialing committees require physicians to disclose past mental health diagnoses or treatment in order to serve in networks or practice at facilities. As part of ongoing national efforts to destigmatize mental health and remove barriers to access, TMA is working to obtain confidentiality protections for all medical professionals. We seek to codify language used by the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiner’s in its application for licensure. The bill applies to records concerning mental health and wellness treatment. This would ensure that physicians and healthcare providers might seek treatment for routine mental health care and career fatigue without fear of professional stigma or adverse determinations.

Sen. Shane Reeves (R-Murfreesboro) | Rep. David Hawk (R-Greeneville)
The overuse of prior authorization (PA) protocols by health plans is considered by many as the number one issue plaguing Tennessee medical practices. In May 2022, TMA’s House of Delegates voted to make PA reform a priority of the association. In pursuit of patients gaining quicker access to care through reduced denials, TMA is seeking to reform the PA process by improving health plan transparency and fairness, clinical validity, continuity of care, and administrative efficiency.

Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixson) | Rep. Kevin Vaughan (R-Collierville)
As part of a coalition representing facility-based physicians, TMA is working to address recent health carrier contract terminations by enacting a state-level solution to the federal No Surprises Act. The legislation seeks to strengthen standards for network adequacy, ensure physicians are offered a fair in-network rate when contracting, and provide a state-level solution to arbitrate Independent Dispute Resolution (IDR) grievances.

Sen. Richard Briggs, MD (R-Knoxville) | Rep. Esther Helton-Haynes (R-East Ridge)
In August 2022, Tennessee’s abortion “trigger” law went into effect following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The law makes most abortions illegal and subjects physicians to up to 15 years in prison for performing an illegal abortion. While the law includes protections through “an affirmative defense” clause, this defense can only be invoked after a physician is criminally charged. As part of a coalition of medical and hospital interests, TMA is seeking clarifications to the law to provide clear legal exceptions from criminal prosecution when the mother’s life or health are at risk. In addition, TMA would like to see other changes to the law to ensure physicians feel safe addressing non-survivable fetal anomalies and other common pregnancy complications.