Legislative Update, March 8
- Methodist Healthcare Ministries Sponsors Healthcare “Let the People Vote!” Rally
- Methodist Healthcare Ministries Leads Healthcare Advocacy Efforts for VIVA San Antonio Chambers’ Day at the Capitol
- House Insurance Committee hears testimony on Health Care Expansion Bill
- State Clubhouses Seek Increased State Funding for Services
- Texas Legislature Moves Forward with Healthcare Workforce Bills
“Let the People Vote!” Rally
March 4th, 2019
On Monday, health care advocates from across the state gathered at the Texas Capitol to urge state lawmakers to allow voters to decide whether Texas should expand the state’s Medicaid program. Nearly two dozen Texas organizations came together for the Texas Rally, sponsored in part by Methodist Healthcare Ministries, to support Senate Bill 524 by Senator Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas), House Bill 590 by Representative Celia Israel (D-Austin), House Bill 840 and House Joint Resolution 46 by Representative John Bucy (D-Austin) to place Medicaid expansion language on the ballot in Texas.
Texas is one of 14 states that chose not to expand Medicaid to cover additional populations of needy adults under the Affordable Care Act. Currently, Texas Medicaid covers low-income adults who are pregnant, children, seniors in long-term living facilities and Texans with severe disabilities or near-death illnesses. There are also a small number of parents earning less than $320 a month who also qualify. Should voters support federal funding for expansion, over 1 million Texans would become eligible to receive affordable health insurance.
A recent poll by the Episcopal Health Foundation revealed that 64 percent of Texans promote a statewide Medicaid expansion. Methodist Healthcare Ministries strongly supports increasing access to health insurance for our communities.
Members of the San Antonio Chamber’s Healthcare and Bioscience Committee with Lexi O’Hair, Policy Analyst for Senator Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio)
Methodist Healthcare Ministries led healthcare advocacy efforts for the VIVA San Antonio Chambers of Commerce Day at the Capitol on Tuesday, March 5. Members of the Chambers’ Healthcare Committees met with legislative staff from Representative Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio), Senator Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), Senator Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio), Representative Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio), Representative Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) and Representative Steve Allison (R-San Antonio) on healthcare issues impacting the residents of San Antonio and Bexar County.
Methodist Healthcare Ministries’ Department of Policy and Advocacy staff educated policymakers on the need to improve access to health coverage for an estimated 300,000 uninsured adults in Bexar County and the importance of funding for the full reconstruction of the San Antonio State Hospital, as well as the need to create the necessary number of graduate medical education (GME) residency slots to keep our medical school graduates in Texas.
The group also asked legislators to support state agencies’ requests for substance use funding for all Texans, especially the most vulnerable populations. Methodist Healthcare Ministries appreciates the opportunity to lead San Antonio businesses and local government organizations on legislation affecting health care for San Antonio.
On Tuesday, Methodist Healthcare Ministries provided written testimony to the House Insurance Committee in support of House Bill 565 by Representative Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) to expand Medicaid coverage up to 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and protect individuals with pre-existing conditions. It is estimated that close to 700,000 low-wage Texans continue to fall into the “coverage gap” – these are individuals who do not have employer-sponsored coverage, earn too little to qualify for health insurance subsidies through the federal healthcare exchange programs and do not qualify for Medicaid coverage. HB 565 would help close the coverage gap by allowing individuals below the 100 percent FPL to receive Medicaid benefits through a sliding scale subsidy to purchase a health benefit plan.
To support a strong health care infrastructure, Texas must increase access for uninsured residents through affordable health coverage, especially for our families below 100 percent of the FPL. It is essential for the State to invest in public health programs that protect and improve the health of vulnerable Texans by supporting statewide initiatives that secure access to providers and services for our families. HB 565 was left pending in the committee by Chairman Eddie Lucio, III (D-Brownsville).
Clubhouses across Texas, including the San Antonio Clubhouse, are requesting an increase in state funding from $1.7 million to $5 million for the 2020-2021 biennium to expand the clubhouse delivery model across the State. The Clubhouse model is an evidence-based, recovery-oriented program for adults diagnosed with a mental illness to improve their ability to function successfully in the community through a peer-focused environment. The 85thLegislature designated $1.7 million for 14 certified Clubhouses in Texas, however, mental health stakeholders are seeking an additional $3.3 million to increase access to these services in more Texas communities.
Clubhouses provide a caring, supportive community and meaningful work to individuals living with mental illness to avoid crises that often result in hospitalization or incarceration. The evidence-based model surrounds the person with a community of peers and programs that helps them thrive in the community. Clubhouses can save $2,650 a day in hospitalization and jail prevention costs for local communities. Increased funding for the expansion of Clubhouse facilities is a legislative priority for Methodist Healthcare Ministries, which also supports and financially invests in the San Antonio Clubhouse facility and programs.
The Texas House and Senate voted to progress legislation this week that would improve the healthcare workforce in the State. On Tuesday, the Senate Chamber approved Senate Bill 10, by Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), which addresses child psychiatric workforce issues by establishing a Child Psychiatry Access Program (CPAP) at health-related institutions to provide telemedicine and telehealth services for pediatricians and primary care providers throughout the state.
On Wednesday, the House Higher Education Committee voted House Bill 80, by Representative Lina Ortega (D-El Paso), out of the committee to be considered on the House floor. HB 80 would require the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to conduct a study on statewide and regional shortages in health professions, focusing on doctoral degrees such as physicians, nursing, psychology and dentistry. The House Higher Education Committee also considered House Bill 1065, by Representative Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), to establish a Rural Resident Physician Grant Program to encourage new graduate medical education (GME) positions in rural and nonmetropolitan areas.
Texas’ rapid population growth places unparalleled demand on its healthcare workforce, ultimately diminishing access to care for all residents. To make matters worse, the provider workforce is disproportionally distributed across Texas with more than 57 percent of the state’s physicians practicing in the five most populous counties, despite only representing 44 percent of the population. These bills would bolster the healthcare workforce and increase access to care for Texans living in rural communities. Methodist Healthcare Ministries supports legislation to incentivize and support healthcare providers to serve in areas with limited access to health care treatment, notably in our state’s rural communities.
Mar 11: Senate State Affairs: Guardianship and Healthcare Workforce (Austin)
Mar 11: House Appropriations: Budget Riders (Austin)
Mar 11: Senate Finance: Supplemental Appropriations (Austin)
Mar 12: House Appropriations: salary requests and Capital Needs (Austin)
Mar 28: Texas Impact Advocacy Day (Austin)
Mar 30: SASH Spring Thing 5K– Sponsored by Methodist Healthcare Ministries (San Antonio)
Apr 2: Immunization Advocacy and Rally Day– 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.