Legislative Update, April 1
- Health Advocates Testify for State Health Literacy Plan
- Lawmakers Propose Legislation to Ensure Continuity of Care for Women
- House Appropriations Committee Pass Budget Bills
- Texas Senate Committee Discusses Recess Policies in Schools
- Public Health Community Advocate to Raise Age to Purchase Tobacco Products
State Representative John Turner with health literacy advocates from San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth, TX
Methodist Healthcare Ministries submitted testimony in support of House Bill 2032 by Representative John Turner (D-Dallas) at the House Public Health committee hearing last Wednesday. The bill would direct the Statewide Health Coordinating Council’s advisory committee to develop a plan that will increase health literacy, so Texans are able to obtain, process and understand basic health information to make healthy decisions. Dr. Caroline Bergeron from the Bexar County Health Collaborative, Dr. Oralia Bazaldua and Dr. Teresa Wagner from University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) also testified in support of the bill. The bill will be amended to include oral health and is expected to be voted out of the Public Health Committee in the coming weeks.
One out of five Texans lacks the knowledge to manage their health and prevent diseases. Low health literacy is linked to poor health outcomes, less frequent use of preventive services and higher rates of hospitalization. Knowing how to seek medical care and take advantage of preventive services requires understanding health information to make informed decisions. House Bill 2032 would save lives by increasing communication between patients and providers, improve the health of Texans by increasing access to preventive health care services and reduce health care costs by reducing unnecessary admissions to hospitals. Methodist Healthcare Ministries was instrumental in bringing this issue forward in 2017 and strongly supports the passage of House Bill 2032 and its efforts to improve the health and wellness of all Texans.
Throughout the week, Methodist Healthcare Ministries supported several bills that would ensure women receive health services after delivery. Methodist Healthcare Ministries provided testimony to the House Human Services Committee in support of House Bill 744 by Representative Toni Rose (D-Dallas) to extend Medicaid for postpartum women up to 12 months. Several organizations testified in support of the bill, including the Texas Women’s Health Coalition and United Methodist Women, which was left pending in the committee by Chairman James Frank (R-Wichita Falls). Additionally, the House Insurance Committee considered House Bill 937 by Representative Sarah Davis (R-West University Place) to allow women to receive a 12-month supply of prescription contraceptives at one time. Supported by Methodist Healthcare Ministries, House Bill 937 was left pending in the committee by Chairman Eddie Lucio, III (D-Brownsville).
On Wednesday, The House Public Health Committee took testimony on House Bill 1641 by Representative Angie Chen Button (R-Richardson) and House Bill 2028 by Representative Julie Johnson (D-Carrolton). Both bills would ensure women receive proper follow-up care after delivery by requiring the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to provide information about the Healthy Texas Women program, including a list of providers in the area who are contracted with the program. House Bill 2028 would also require HHSC to provide a list of local hospitals in the notice. Both bills were left pending in the committee by Chairwoman Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston). Methodist Healthcare Ministries weighed in favorably on House Bill 1641 and House Bill 2028 to ensure continuity of quality care for women after pregnancy.
On Monday, Methodist Healthcare Ministries submitted testimony to the House Appropriations Committee on health-related budget items in the General Appropriations Bill (House Bill 1) by Representative John Zerwas (R-Richmond) and the Supplemental Appropriations Bill (Senate Bill 500) by Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound). Both bills were voted favorably out of the House budget committee.
Methodist Healthcare Ministries’ testimony focused on securing full replacement funding for the San Antonio State Hospital and increases in salaries for state hospital employees. Full funding for construction and salaries are crucial to sustain operations and increase access to inpatient behavioral health services for the families in SASH’s 55-county catchment area. Methodist Healthcare Ministries also included recommendations for increased funding for outpatient behavioral health services, coordinated specialty care for First Episode Psychosis (FEP) and substance use services administered by the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).
Methodist Healthcare Ministries provided written testimony in support of Senate Bill 364 by Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) at the Senate Education Committee’s hearing on March 12. The bill would require the Texas Education Agency to develop age-appropriate model recess policies that encourage constructive outdoor play time, provide guidance to school districts on maximizing physical activity and encourage Boards of Trustees to solicit input from local school health advisory councils (SHACs) for the adoption of policies that improve academic, physical and mental well-being. Senator Watson offered an amended version of SB 364 that would require SHACs, in lieu of the Texas Education Agency, to develop recess policies. The bill was left pending in committee.
Texas has the seventh highest obesity rate for youth ages 10-17 in the U.S., with over 600,000 Texas youth who are considered obese. Daily recess is shown to have health, social and academic benefits for students; however statewide policy recommendations do not exist. Senate Bill 364 would ensure children are active throughout the day, so they are more likely to thrive academically and socially. Methodist Healthcare Ministries supports the efforts of Senate Bill 364 to reduce childhood obesity and improve the health of our youngest generation.
Several public health advocates testified in support of Senate Bill 21 by Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston) at the Senate State Affairs Committee hearing last week, asking to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21, more commonly known as Tobacco 21. Testimony focused on the medical and public health benefits associated with raising the age to access for tobacco products, including the prevention of cancer and other chronic diseases.
Senator Huffman shared with committee members that two-thirds of Texas voters favor raising the age for buying tobacco products to 21. About 95 percent of smokers start before the age of 12 and over 10,000 kids in Texas become daily smokers every year. Studies show that 498,000 Texas kids will ultimately die prematurely due to smoking. Raising the age to purchase tobacco is an effective strategy to fight tobacco use, one that the City of San Antonio effectively enacted on behalf of its residents on October 2018. Methodist Healthcare Ministries fully supports the Tobacco 21 initiative and all prevention efforts that improve the health and wellness of our communities.
Apr 2: Immunization Advocacy and Rally Day– Sponsored by Methodist Healthcare Ministries (Austin)
Apr 15-16: TX Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy 8thAnnual Symposium– Sponsored by Methodist Healthcare Ministries (Austin)
For more information on health care research, policy or advocacy,please contact Chris Yanas at firstname.lastname@example.org.