Texas House Republicans introduce measures to address healthcare access and workforce as bill filing period ends


Boram Kim


The Texas Legislature marked its 60th day of the 2023 session on Friday, the last day for lawmakers to file bills. Legislators can now constitutionally move forward with actions on the bills after the filing period, and will have a record budget surplus to work with in doing so. 


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Speaking on a legislative panel at the 2023 Texas State of Reform Health Policy Conference in Austin on Thursday, Reps. Stephanie Klick (R–Fort Worth) and Brian Harrison (R-Waxahachie) discussed the bills they have filed, and their healthcare priorities this session. 

Both legislators pointed to addressing workforce shortages in healthcare as a top priority. 

Klick, who chairs the House Public Health Committee and sits on both the Human Services and Health Care Reform Select Committees, said her measures primarily focus on nursing and behavioral health.

“What we’re seeing now is a lot of long-term care facilities are having their staff poached to go work in acute care,” Klick said. “Nurses typically do not make what they do in acute care. And so I’ve got a loan forgiveness program for those that are in long-term care. It would be a great opportunity for somebody who might be a (licensed practical nurse) or an (associate degree nurse) working in that setting to upgrade their skills, maybe get into a (bachelor in science of nursing) program.”

House Bill 91 would provide support for nursing-related postsecondary education, including loan repayment assistance to nursing faculty and grants to nursing education programs. Klick also has proposed amendments to the Texas Board of Nursing’s appointments and disciplinary procedures aimed at fostering growth in the profession.

“I’ve got a package of funding for not only nursing, but psychiatrists because that’s an area that’s increasingly in shortage,” Klick said. “You go into many communities, there are no psychiatrists at all. And if there are, many of them only want cash payment—they’re not participating in any of the insurance plans.”

Both Klick and Harrison say they will be supporting licensure compact measures and programs aimed at promoting access to care through telehealth. 

Serving in his first full-term as a state representative, Harrison, who was chief of staff at the US Department of Health and Human Services under the Trump administration, has introduced a measure that would allow healthcare professionals certified in other states to practice and provide services in Texas either in-person or via telehealth.

Harrison said the ability for clinicians and healthcare providers to utilize telehealth as a force multiplier to meet patients where they are with the exact discrete type of services that they need is important.

“That absolutely was one of the ‘in-the-good-bucket’ lessons learned from COVID,” Harrison said. “We, through CMS, allowed reimbursements for telehealth and medicine that had previously not been permitted. And that’s actually something I don’t think we should ever turn back the clock on.”

Harrison filed HB 4347, which would require rebates or discounts given by pharmaceutical manufacturers given to pharmacy benefit managers to be passed onto patients, on Thursday. Emphasizing his commitment to improving the state’s health, Harrison said no matter where residents are on the ideological spectrum, Texans want the same outcomes and goals related to healthcare.

“We all want more choice,” Harrison said. “We would want better care, we want lower prices, we want greater access, and we want to prioritize seniors. We want to protect the doctor-patient relationship, we want to make sure the practice of medicine is not micromanaged by people who are lacking the medical training.”