From one of the strongest prescription drug price-transparency laws in the nation and a host of new consumer protections against surprise health care costs to measures focused on nursing home safety, older worker trainings, guardianship abuse deterrence, rural broadband access, and more, new laws backed by AARP Texas during the 2019 legislative session are taking effect on Sept. 1.
In all, more than a dozen of AARP’s priority bills in the Texas Legislature go into effect this Sunday, though implementation for some of the measures require administrative rules changes that could delay their impact.
“Consumers of all ages and older Texans, in particular, will see real benefits under these laws that AARP fought for,” said Rob Schneider, the manager of advocacy and outreach for AARP Texas. “I think this came about because the Legislature really listened. They heard from our volunteers and the people who told them that they can no longer tolerate the high costs of prescription drugs, the nonsense of surprise medical bills, and so many other issues that we worked with legislators to address.”
In Texas, it’s traditional for most new laws to take effect in September following biennial legislative sessions, and this year is no different. According to The Texas Tribune, 820 new laws passed during the 2019 session will go into effect, ranging from the $250-billion, two-year budget to mundane highway-naming bills.
Here’s a look at some of the new Texas laws taking effect that AARP supported:
Nursing Home Resident Safety: HB 2050 seeks to end the chemical restraint of nursing home residents by requiring written consent from the resident or family member prior to the administration of antipsychotic drug. Under this new law, when those powerful medicines are given, the risks, benefits and alternative treatment options must be disclosed in writing.
Prescription Drug Price Transparency: HB 2536 requires that prescription drug costs be publicly explained to consumers and posted on the Texas Health and Human Services’ website. Under the measure, consumers will learn when the price of a medication is increased by more than 15 percent in one year or 40 percent over three years.
Surprise Medical Bill Protections: Portions of SB 1264 to end surprise medical bills goes into effect now but the meat of the measure will be effective Jan. 1, 2020. The new law will mandate that charges from out-of-network personnel at a facility be resolved between the provider and the patient’s insurance company, with the patient never being billed for costs above in-network deductibles or copays.
Freestanding Emergency Room Safeguards: Hundreds of freestanding emergency rooms exist in Texas, typically in major urban areas. They often resemble urgent care clinics but some regularly charge high emergency-room prices, with patients leaving confused about whether their insurance will cover the charges. New laws, stemming from HB 1941 and HB 2041 will require freestanding ERs to clearly disclose the in-network health plans they access, ban price gouging, and prohibit misleading advertising.
Rural Broadband Access: Broadband, or high-speed Internet, delivers new technologies that are improving the quality of life for people of all ages, and can help older Texans live independently in their homes and communities. It also combats social isolation and improves wellbeing by supporting services like distance learning and telehealth. But access to broadband is sometimes sparse in rural Texas. HB 2422 is among broadband measures AARP backed. It will require coordination of certain broadband projects by the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
Guardianship Abuse Deterrence: A guardian is someone who is authorized, under watch by the courts, to perforce certain tasks to care and protect someone else. To improve oversight of guardians and spot abuse, fraud or exploitation, SB 31 – along with new funding in the budget -- provides more monitoring tools to ensure that guardians live up to their important duty.
Primary Care from Nurse Practitioners: HB 278 removes certain meeting requirements for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses to improve their ability to provide primary care, especially in rural areas.
Older Worker Training: HB 1074 ends a discriminatory policy in the state’s Labor Code pertaining to trainings for certain older employees.