COLLECTIVE BARGAINING: Texas House Approves Measure
The Texas House last night followed the lead of the state Senate and passed 119-20 a bill that would allow doctors to conduct collective contract negotiations with managed care plans, under the close watch of the state attorney general. State Rep. Glenn Lewis (D) said the legislation is "needed to give doctors more leverage with HMOs." Kim Ross, chief lobbyist for the Texas Medical Association, said, "This is extraordinarily significant in the sense that no longer can HMOs the size of a small country come in and dictate how a physician treats his patient." But some opponents questioned the propriety of allowing an already well-paid professionals to bargain collectively. "I have always believed that collective bargaining was for people that are poor, people who are struggling, not for the richest of people in the United States," said state Rep. Paul Moreno (D). Others said the bill would have a negative impact on costs. "I have trouble believing that doctors will negotiate for lower fees," said state Rep. Carl Isett (R), estimating that the bill would drive up costs 5% to 10%. "It's not the insurance companies harmed by the bills, it's the consumers," said state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth (R). But House sponsor John Smithee (R), claiming that critics had "misrepresented" the bill, said it "opens the door for doctors and HMOs to talk and talk about things that would benefit the patient and patient care." The bill now goes back to the Senate for action on the House's amendments (Lunday, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, 5/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.