Legislative Update, February 1
- Methodist Healthcare Ministries Hosts Capitol Staff Lunch & Learn on SASH Redesign Project
- United Methodist Women Meet in Austin to Advocate for Child and Maternal Health
- Methodist Healthcare Ministries Raises Awareness for Cardiovascular Health
- Cancer Action Network Requests Sustainable Funding for CPRIT
- Health Care in Rural Texas At Risk
- House Appropriations Committee Initiates Budget Review Hearings
This past Friday, Methodist Healthcare Ministries hosted a luncheon for Capitol staff members to share the latest information on the San Antonio State Hospital planning project, including the release of the final report, and efforts to secure an estimated $300 million for the construction of a new facility this session.
Joining the Ministries to present an overview of the work done by the SASH Redesign Executive Committee were Clarity Child Guidance Center, The Center for Health Care Services and Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. In 2017, Texas lawmakers implemented a three-phased approach to modernize state inpatient mental health facilities and allocate sufficient funding for the eventual construction of a new San Antonio State Hospital, all efforts to reduce chronic waitlists for beds and improve access to behavioral health services in SASH’s 54 county catchment area. The 2018 SASH final report was shared with legislative offices whose districts rely on services from the state hospital and includes feedback from the nine Local Mental Health Authorities on how SASH’s delivery system could be redesigned to serve the needs of their communities.
This session, the Senate has currently identified $300 million for state hospital construction in its initial budget. Design plans recently released by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission estimate roughly $323 million would be needed for the reconstruction of a 296-bed psychiatric facility in San Antonio. The House’s preliminary budget does not currently include funds for state hospital construction, however Representative John Zerwas (R-Richmond), who chairs the House budget committee, noted in his opening comments this week that it is an important issue for members and will likely address in upcoming hearings. Securing the necessary funds for a new SASH facility is a top priority for Methodist Healthcare Ministries this session. Members of Policy & Advocacy team are meeting with legislators and their staff to educate them on its importance and need for full funding of the project.
Over 180 United Methodist women visited Texas lawmakers this week to educate them on policies that are needed to increase access to health insurance for women and children. The 2019 Legislative Event was held in Austin this week and sponsored by Methodist Healthcare Ministries.
Attendees learned about several initiatives related to healthcare coverage during a panel session with Patrick Bresette, Executive Director of Children’s Defense Fund Texas, and Representative Shawn Thierry (D-Houston), who explained how lack of access to quality healthcare can negatively impact a person’s well-being. They highlighted bills that would expand medical assistance for children and postpartum women, such as HB 342 by Representative Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio) that would authorize 12-month continuous eligibility for children’s Medicaid and HB 411 by Representative Thierry that proposed to extend Medicaid for postpartum women from 60 days to 12 months.
Methodist Healthcare Ministries strongly supports policy solutions, such as HB 342 and HB 411, which extend health coverage for women and children, therefore reducing maternal mortality and the high uninsured rate of children in Texas.
On Wednesday, Methodist Healthcare Ministries joined the American Heart Association in promoting policies to improve cardiovascular health. Heart advocates urged legislators to support HB 749, more commonly known as Tobacco 21, by Representative John Zerwas (R-Richmond) to raise the minimum legal sale age of all tobacco products from 18 to 21. The group also educated lawmakers on policies that would update minimum standards for nutrition and fitness in daycare centers, ensure basic consumer protections for short-term health insurance plans and create a statewide pilot program that would double SNAP beneficiaries’ purchasing power for fresh produce. As part of its 2019 Legislative Agenda, Methodist Healthcare Ministries supports the American Heart Association’s policies that improve cardiovascular health through tougher tobacco laws, updated nutrition standards for daycares and incentivizing SNAP recipients to make healthier choices.
Methodist Healthcare Ministries has joined the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) in efforts to secure sustainable funding for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). HB 39 and HJR 12 by Representative John Zerwas (R-Richmond) authorize public approval of $3 billion in bonds in the state’s next general election and remove the Institute’s restriction to award new grants for 2023 and beyond.
To date, CPRIT has invested $2.17 billion in cancer research, product development and prevention to enhance Texas’ competitive edge in the global fight against cancer. Without funding reauthorization, the state would lose access to prevention services especially those in rural and medically under-served areas. As a member of ACS CAN, Methodist Healthcare Ministries supports HB 39 and HJR 12 to ensure Texas remains a leader in the fight against cancer.
A report conducted last year by the Episcopal Health Foundation and Texas A&M Rural and Community Health Initiatives reveals healthcare challenges in rural communities in the state. Out of the 254 counties in Texas, 35 counties lack physicians and 185 counties do not have access to a psychiatrist. Adding to these concerns is the closing of more than 20 hospitals in Texas, due to financial issues and lack of leadership recruitment.
Healthcare advocates propose the need to create innovative solutions, connecting telehealth and new types of healthcare workers with potential partnerships and healthcare delivery tools. HB 870 by Representative Price (R-Amarillo) requires managed care organizations to reimburse for telemedicine or telehealth services. In 2017, Methodist Healthcare Ministries supported legislation that expanded and funded telehealth programs and services, especially for rural counties, and will continue to support these policy changes this session.
The House Appropriations Committee began hearings this week to review their proposed budget, HB 1, as filed, with the Legislative Budget Board (LBB). The LBB provided an overview of Medicaid, statewide behavioral health services, child protective services, Hurricane Harvey’s fiscal impact on state agencies and state debt, among other priority issues. Representative John Zerwas (R-Richmond) reiterated that there is an overall increase of Medicaid funds due to higher matching rate from the federal government, easing state demand on the program.
The House budget allocates $7.48 billion in behavioral health services across 23 agencies, including $1.3 billion for community mental health services and $435.7 million for substance use services. Mental health services also received support via the Texas Education Agency through $12 million in state funds for Mental Health First Aid training, telemedicine, trauma-informed care, coordination of access to mental health providers and positive school culture programs. Securing adequate funding for mental health programs and services is a top priority for Methodist Healthcare Ministries this session.
Feb 4: Texas School Health Advisory Committee Meeting (Austin)
Feb 4: House Appropriations Committee Hearing: School Safety (Austin)
Feb 5: Policy Council for Children and Families (Austin)
Feb 7: Texans Care for Children: Providing Kids a Healthy Start (Austin)
Feb 7: Hospital Payment Advisory Committee (Austin)
Feb 11: Senate Finance Committee Hearing: Article III - Public Education (Austin)
Feb 12: Senate Finance Committee Hearing: Article III - Higher Education (Austin)
Feb 13: Senate Finance Committee Hearing: Article III - Higher Education (Austin)