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Texas Considering No Longer Licensing X-Ray Technicians

Texas is considering doing away with the licensing of X-ray technicians and 11 other types of health professionals. Some say that would put patients at risk. A Sunset Commission hearing Wednesday is set to address the issue.

Dr. Javier Saenz, who has a medical practice in the Rio Grande Valley town of La Joya, prepared his clinic’s X-ray machine in 2012.

When Texans get an X-ray or an MRI, the person performing that scan is licensed by the state. Now, the state is considering doing away with the licensing of X-ray technicians and 11 other types of health professionals.

But some of the state’s 28,000 licensed X-ray technicians — formally called medical radiologic technologists — say dissolving the certification program would put patients at risk.

A staff recommendation by the Sunset Advisory Commission that commissioners are set to consider in a public hearing Wednesday says that X-ray technicians don’t need to be licensed because they work in highly regulated health care facilities.

Texas is one of 39 states that license X-ray technicians, said Christine Lung, vice president of government relations and public policy for the American Society of Radiologic Technologists.

“Everyone knows that radiation is a carcinogen,” Lung said in an interview. “If performed incorrectly, it’s a direct risk to public health and safety.”

But the May report by staff at the Sunset Commission, which is charged with highlighting inefficiencies at state agencies, says that X-ray technicians “operate in healthcare facilities subject to numerous federal and state requirements, including separate regulation of the machines themselves, have private accreditation programs, and work in conjunction with several other highly trained healthcare professionals.”

The regulatory program — as well as those for contact lens dispensers, respiratory care practitioners and dyslexia therapists — could be safely eliminated, the report said. It also recommends doing away with licenses for dietitians and opticians because anyone is already allowed to perform those jobs as long as they don’t use those titles. (See page 46 of the report for the full list of the 12 health professions and seven other programs recommended for deregulation.)

In addition to X-rays, radiologic technologists perform CT scans and MRIs and do interventional procedures. Kameka Rideaux, a radiation therapist at the Texas Medical Center in Houston and president of the Texas Society of Radiologic Technologists, said she delivers high doses of radiation to cancer patients and has to be within millimeters of accuracy.

“It’s not just point and shoot X-ray,” Lung said.

Ahead of hearing public testimony on Wednesday, Sunset Commission members on Tuesday discussed the regulatory recommendations with agency staffers.

Ken Levine, director of the Sunset Commission, told lawmakers that the recommendations seek to help the Department of State Health Services, which runs the 19 regulatory programs slated for elimination. The report says the department “struggles to effectively manage numerous and diverse regulatory programs,” distracting from its primary duty of protecting public health.

It would cost the state about $1.6 million a year to deregulate the 19 programs because licensees pay more in fees than the amount the Legislature provides to run the regulatory programs, the report said.

The recommendations to eliminate the 19 regulatory programs and transfer some others to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation were met with concern from lawmakers on Tuesday.

"Your charge was to make sure that each profession is administered and licensed in a way that is the least burdensome possible," state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, told Sunset staff. "But we've all gotten a lot of phone calls."

Nelson appointed a subcommittee to consider the regulatory recommendations  and come up with a modified proposal that "has a realistic chance of passing the Legislature."

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