Legislative Update, September 18
- End of Session Wrap Up
- Policy Work Continues During the Legislative Interim
- We Remain Thankful to the Work and Contributions Made by All
The 140-day Texas legislative session came to a close over the May 27 Memorial Day holiday with Governor Greg Abbott and legislative leaders celebrating significant victories related to school finance and property tax reform. Before swinging the final gavel, lawmakers fulfilled their constitutional duty and passed a balanced budget allocating $250.7 billion for the 2020-2021 biennium, a 16 percent increase over the 2018-2019 budget. Included in the final budget is $84.4 billion for health and human services programs, up just 1 percent from the previous biennium. As has been the custom in past sessions, lawmakers included a $900 million cut to the state Medicaid program through a cost containment rider in the state budget bill. The state’s health care services agency will direct the program reductions over the next two years to achieve these savings.
A total of 7,324 bills were filed this legislative session, with 1,373 bills ultimately becoming law. In a rare move from previous governors, Governor Abbott signed the two-year budget into law without any line-item vetoes.
Working alongside lawmakers and state health advocates over the five-month session, Methodist Healthcare Ministries weighed in on more than 200 new state laws, helping deliver on a number of regional priorities important to families in our 74-county service area. Despite healthcare receiving little attention this legislative session, there were a number of notable accomplishments related to access to care, mental health and women’s and children’s health. Highlights of key bills include:
- Access to Care
- Reducing transportation barriers to health care treatment by allow ridesharing companies to provide nonmedical transportation services under Medicaid. (HB 1576)
- Preventing cancer by raising the statewide minimum age to purchase all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21 years of age (exempts military). (SB 21)
- Continuing to support cancer prevention & research initiatives by passing a constitutional amendment which will ask voters on the Nov. 5 ballot for the authority to issue another $3 billion in bonds for the continuation of the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). (HB 39 and HJR 12)
- Incentivizing the purchase of fruits and vegetables by creating a SNAP pilot program and studying existing incentive programs throughout the state. (SB 1834)
- Creating greater flexibility and efficiency for local hospital districts allowing them to better serve uninsured Texans by creating local healthcare provider participation funds programs (LPPFs) in Bexar County and Nueces County. (SB 1545 and SB 2315)
- Behavioral Health
- Securing $190.3 million to begin construction on a new San Antonio State Hospital, a 300-bed campus that will improve care for those living in South Texas with behavioral health needs. (SB 500)
- Improving mental health capacity in rural areas through regional coordination between local mental health authorities (LMHAs), requiring them to develop mental health service development plans. (HB 633)
- Increasing access to intensive home-based and community-based mental health services for children enrolled in Medicaid by giving managed care organizations flexibility to provide more cost-effective and evidence-based services as deemed medically appropriate. (SB 1177)
- Improving school safety and mental health promotion by allocating $100 million to create a Child Mental Health Consortium that will leverage the expertise of health-related educational institutions to improve the child mental health care system in Texas and increase access to child psychiatry through telemedicine, and by allocating $100M to create a School Safety Allotment to assist with school safety and security training, prevention and treatment programs related to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and suicide prevention in school. (SB 11)
- Increasing the capacity of school districts and school personnel to support mental health and the healthy development of students by establishing training, policy and planning requirements, use of trauma-informed practices, social and emotional skill development, and comprehensive suicide prevention. (HB 18)
- Women and Children’s Health
- Improving access to maternal health care services by creating a pilot program that will allow children to ride with their pregnant or postpartum mothers to their medical appointments under the Medicaid Transportation Program. (HB 25)
- Improving maternal and newborn health for women and children with a drug dependency by expanding the Texas AIM program for hospitals to include bundles for maternal opioid abuse disorder. (SB 436)
- Increasing access to healthcare services after a women’s 60-day Medicaid for Pregnant Women coverage expires by notifying them of their eligibility for the Healthy Texas Women (HTW) program. (SB 2132)
- Improving access to postpartum services by developing a limited postpartum care service package for women enrolled in HTW for up to 12 months postpartum (SB 750), and creating a 5-year strategic plan to improve access to postpartum screenings, treatment and support. (HB 253)
- Helping children stay active and healthy by updating existing nutrition and active play minimum standards at daycare centers & registered family homes to align with recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. (SB 952)
Without a doubt, there was little political will this session to address comprehensive health care for our state’s low-income families. Notably, Texas continues to have the highest number of uninsured adults and children in the country, with little talk of a permanent fix or a backup plan to protect patients if Texas succeeds in repealing the Affordable Care Act. Identifying sound proposals that aim to secure healthcare coverage for the millions of uninsured Texans remains a top priority for Methodist Healthcare Ministries as we continue to advocate on behalf of the underserved in our 74-county service region.
Methodist Healthcare Ministries extends a heartfelt thank you to all of our hardworking elected officials in the Texas Legislature, especially our 10 Senate and 44 House members representing MHM’s 74-county service region. We appreciate allowing us the countless office visits made with lawmakers and Capitol staff, as well as their public endorsement of legislation and policies drafted to improve the health of Texas families. Our efforts were greatly strengthened and expertly led by our funded health care advocacy partners, including The Center for Public Policy Priorities, Children’s Defense Fund, Council for a Strong America, Healthy Futures of Texas, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, National Alliance on Mental Illness - Texas, National Association of Social Workers - Texas, Texas Impact, Texas Doctors for Social Responsibility, Texas Pediatric Society, Texans Care for Children and The Immunization Partnership.
Below are links to additional excellent summaries by our advocacy partners.
Sept. 19-20: Center for Public Policy Priorities & Texas Association of Community Health Plans - Texas State of Enrollment Conference (San Antonio)
Sept. 26-27: Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute - Engage & Excel Conference (Austin)
Sept. 26-28: The Texas Tribune - TribFestival (Austin)
Oct. 3-4: Health Literacy Collaborative - TX Health Literacy Conference (San Antonio)
Nov. 8-9: NAMI Texas - Road to Resilience Conference (Houston)
For more information on health care research, policy or advocacy, please contact Chris Yanas at firstname.lastname@example.org.