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Texas doctors bill takes effect

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Legislation designed to prevent Texas doctors who treat New Mexico patients from being sued in New Mexico’s patient-friendly courts took effect today.

Designated as House Bill (HB) 270, “Out-of-State Health Care Provider Access,” the original bill was sponsored by Rep. Terry McMillan, R-Las Cruces, and strongly supported by legislators representing Lea County. McMillan is a surgeon. The bill also states Texas doctors may ask New Mexico patients to sign a form agreeing to sue in Texas courts, if they sue for malpractice.

Based on two real cases currently being heard by the New Mexico Supreme Court, many Texas doctors reportedly warned late last year that if New Mexico residents were allowed to sue Texas doctors for work performed in Texas, they would simply refuse to accept New Mexico patients.

Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, had brought the issue to light last fall after her own doctor in Lubbock alerted her to the issue.

Access to doctors in Lubbock, Midland/Odessa and other Texas cities is particularly critical for residents of Lea County and other parts of New Mexico not close to the Albuquerque area.

Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, had submitted a companion bill in the Senate, and championed McMillan’s House bill when his became stuck in a Senate committee.

Although the Supreme Court cases are unaffected by the new law, no new cases of New Mexico patients suing Texas doctors for work performed in Texas should arise, therefore alleviating the fear that Texas doctors would become unavailable to New Mexicans.

Several other new laws introduced by legislators representing Lea County take affect today, as follows.

Rep. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, HB 27, Family Violence Act Extended Protection Order, and HB 28, Abuse and Neglect Act Changes.

Rep. Bob Wooley, R-Roswell, HB 92, New Mexico Mounted Patrol Survivors Benefits, HB 93, Veteran Business Preference Changes, and HB 192, Lodger’s Tax for Tourism Services.

Sen. Kernan, SB 144, Rename “Breakfast After the Bell Program.”

Sen. Ingle, SB 72, Right to Farm and Operations as a Nuisance, and SB 108, Insurance Licensing Provisions.

Gallegos explained his bills that become law today strengthen protection for victims of violence.

Wooley said his strong interest in veterans and the mounted patrol survivors result in laws that help those groups.

In addition to expressing pleasure over the passage of the Texas doctors legislation, Kernan proved strong interest in assuring all children are afforded a healthy breakfast.

Ingle, who called the Texas doctors case an “insane” issue caused by New Mexico’s court system, also struggled for clarification that farmers and ranchers cannot be harassed by new neighbors launching nuisance suits.

Curtis Wynne may be contacted at 575-391-5436 or by email.

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