The ink on Texas Gov. Rick Perry's signature was barely dry before John Marshall Henderson, CEO of Childress Regional Medical Center in Childress, TX, started getting inquiries from physicians about employment.
"I've actually had two or three questions in the last week," related to legislation that was signed May 12, he told HealthLeaders Media in an interview.
The new law will allow rural Texas hospitals to employ physicians, ending a longstanding ban which had prevented hospitals from doing so. Specifically, senate bill 894 will allow critical access hospitals, sole community hospitals, and hospitals in counties of 50,000 or fewer to employ physicians.
Physician recruitment is already a problem in rural communities, so prohibiting employment of physicians was another roadblock for Texas hospitals, especially since nearby states allow physician employment, proponents of the law say.
"Over time it has become increasingly difficult to recruit primary care physicians in particular to more rural, isolated areas of the state, and this is another tool or option or incentive to attract physicians," Henderson said. "There was an argument to be made before this passed that the prohibition against employment actually drove physicians out of Texas because those that would prefer an employment relationship could go to Louisiana or Oklahoma or New Mexico."
Don McBeath, director of advocacy of communications for the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals, agrees.
"We're very optimistic that this will be huge step toward enhancing access to healthcare in rural Texas by virtue of being able to recruit more physicians into rural areas," he said in an interview. "There's no one solution, but we do think a big barrier was this antiquated Texas law."