Editor’s Note: This story was updated to reflect that the bill, which was amended, will need to be approved by the House if it passes the full Senate. It would then go to the governor.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — A patient safety bill aimed at protecting Texans from potentially dangerous doctors, filed in response to KXAN’s “Still Practicing” investigations, is one step closer to becoming law.
In a last-minute move, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee held a previously unscheduled hearing Friday — just under the wire to meet key legislative deadlines. The hearing was announced late Thursday evening.
A substitute version of House Bill 1998, which was amended slightly, was unanimously voted out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee in a vote of 9-0. It now goes to the full Senate.
If it passes, the changes will have to be approved by the House.
This is the same committee KXAN investigative reporter Matt Grant testified in front of last month after KXAN’s year-long series uncovered doctors have been allowed to keep practicing, with restrictions, even though the Texas Medical Board deemed them a “threat to the public welfare.” Additionally, the investigation found dozens of out-of-state disciplinary records were kept secret from the public, violating state law.
HB 1998 was originally introduced by State Rep. Julie Johnson, D-Farmers Branch. It overwhelmingly passed the House on May 12 — a little over a year after Johnson first told KXAN she would draft a bill to address the problems we uncovered.
“That’s not going to fly,” Johnson said after watching our investigations in March 2022. “And I intend to do something about it.”
Her bill makes it a crime to lie on license applications, prevents doctors who have had their licenses revoked in other states from practicing in Texas and requires constant monitoring of physicians — which they will pay for — with the National Practitioner Data Bank.
Johnson has credited KXAN’s investigations for the bill, which has been praised by patient safety advocates. Johnson said she collaborated on the bill with the TMB.
“KXAN uncovered a problem, brought it to my attention,” Johnson said this past March. “We discussed. I met with policyholders. We’ve come together to form, I think, a piece of legislation that can make a meaningful impact into health safety and patient safety.”
During Friday’s hearing, Lisa McGiffert, with the Patient Safety Action Network, and State Sen. Bob Hall, R- Edgewood, directly referenced KXAN’s “Still Practicing” investigations.
“It is really important for the board to carry out its mission, and time after time we have seen that they have failed,” said McGiffert. “Some of them high-profile cases, like Dr. Duntsch also known as Dr. Death, but others are under the radar like the 50 doctors KXAN found,” McGiffert said.
“It wasn’t until KXAN and their investigation pointed out these guys came to Texas,” Hall said in closing remarks during testimony.
Johnson’s bill was sponsored in the Texas Senate by Hall, who sits on the HHS Committee and told KXAN last year he, too, would introduce legislation based, in part, on what we uncovered. During this legislative session, Hall introduced his own bill, Senate Bill 666, aimed at reforming the Texas Medical Board. That bill was voted out of the Senate but has yet to receive a hearing in the House, where it was referred to the Public Health Committee.
Hall’s bill would have required a panel of five doctors to review complaints against physicians and enacted measures he said would cut down on “frivolous” board investigations by limiting who could file a complaint. It was referred to the committee on May 15, the date the Public Health committee was already scheduled to meet to vote on bills. The committee won’t hold another hearing, Hall’s office said they were told.