Connection Update

Tony Gilman: Highlights of Texas’ 84th Legislative Session

84th Texas Legislature

June 1st marked the end of the Regular Session of the 84th Texas Legislature. Looking back, the past five months have been extremely eventful for the Texas Health Services Authority (THSA) and health information exchange (HIE) in Texas.

Most notably, after a multi-phase, yearlong Sunset review process, on May 15, the Governor signed Senate Bill 203, the Sunset bill that transitions the THSA from a public-private partnership to a private nonprofit entity in 2021. The bill also adds one member representing local HIEs to the THSA’s board of directors and changes the board's two ex-officio members from the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to two members representing health and human services agencies as state agency data resources. I am very pleased with the end result of this legislation, which was the first Sunset bill approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor.

Outside of our Sunset bill, THSA monitored and served as a resource on a number of other important bills related to health information technology in Texas. This included House Bill 2641, a bill on interoperability and HIE sponsored by Representative John Zerwas (R-Fort Bend). This bill, which has been signed by the Governor, mandates that the state’s health and human service agencies adopt nationally recognized standards in their IT systems that interface with providers on a go-forward basis. House Bill 2641 also amends a number of mandatory public health reporting statutes to allow health care providers to report and query data to and from DSHS through an HIE. Additionally, the language in HB 2641 ensures that providers that submit information to an HIE are protected against litigation if the HIE or another provider accessing the information uses it in a way that violates state or federal privacy and security laws relating to the disclosure of protected health information. Lastly, House Bill 2641 directs the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to develop a method, if determined feasible and cost effective, for paying Medicaid providers for downloading clinical summaries from, and transmitting clinical summaries through HIEs.

The advances made over the past several months in Texas reflect the state’s confidence in the THSA and a commitment to maintaining the position of Texas as a leader in health information technology. We could not be more pleased with the progress made possible not only by the actions of the Texas legislature but also because of the support of local HIEs, provider groups and stakeholder organizations.

Thank you for your continued interest and support.