Category: Health Care

Big Issues Last Week

As the session heats up and bills are being heard in committees, this is a great time to check in on where things stand on several issues Texans greatly care about, including expanding health care access to uninsured people, local control of communities, rising property taxes and long-overdue criminal justice reforms to name a few.

 

Medicaid Expansion

This morning, advocacy groups, citizens, and several HDC members gathered on the front steps of the Capitol to speak out for the need for Texas to accept the billions of federal dollars for Medicaid expansion. They braved the cold for such a great cause, and the rally came at a good time. Tomorrow, the House Committee on Insurance will hear, for the first time in 6 years, a bill regarding the expansion of Medicaid.

Chairman Coleman, the bill’s author, joins several other Democrats leading the effort to expand coverage in the state, including Reps. Beckley, Bucy, Israel, Rosenthal, Bernal, and Reynolds to name a few.

 

The ‘Lavinia Masters Act’

Rep. Victoria Neave should be commended for her tremendous, bipartisan leadership on an issue that deserves our full attention: justice for rape survivors. Her bill, named after Lavinia Masters, a survivor in Dallas, would require an audit to determine the number, status and location of all rape kits in Texas. It is a serious step towards bringing true justice to Texans who need help the most.

As Rep. Neave said:

“Every rape kit sitting on a shelf represents a survivor waiting for justice. House Bill 8 seeks to address the circumstances in Lavinia’s case that led to the delay in the testing of her rape kit so that, in future cases, victims are not denied justice.”

 

Raising the Minimum Wage

This year, we have seen several representatives file bills to raise the state’s minimum wage. These bills would put needed money into the pockets of those who work hard to earn a livable income for themselves and their families. The minimum wage hasn’t been increased since 2009, and it’s about time we get to work fixing that.

 

Property Taxes

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Ways and Means heard testimony on HB 2. While we are glad that the process set by Chairman Burrows is transparent and is not being rushed like its Senate companion was, localities in Texas have serious concerns about the bill. We share some of those same concerns. HB 2 does not lower property taxpayers’ bills, while ultimately tying the hands of our cities and counties.

 

As the Legislature considers even more bills in the coming days, House Democrats will keep in mind what Texans truly want the Legislature to address, and stay focused on providing real solutions for all Texans.

Update: health care and family separations at the border

The Dallas Morning News has published an incredible, heart-breaking series titled “Pain & Profit” that details how the state’s managed care system is failing Texas’ most fragile citizens. The key summary, from their report:

 

We reviewed more than 70,000 pages of documents, including patient medical records and material that state officials and the companies tried to keep secret. We crunched financial and insurance-industry data and talked to hundreds of families, doctors and policy experts.

 

We found that state officials are protecting a booming multibillion-dollar industry while the most vulnerable Texans wait in vain for wheelchairs, psychiatric drugs and doctors’ appointments. That system has failed countless disabled adults and sick children who can’t advocate for themselves.

 

To date, they have released three parts of their series:

 

Part 1: The preventable tragedy of D’ashon Morris

Part 2: As patients suffer, companies profit

Part 3: Texas pays companies billions for ‘sham networks’ of doctors

 

The HDC will continue tracking these articles and will provide additional information that comes to light about what’s gone so wrong with so many aspects of managed care for fragile Texans.

 

Update: HDC Responds to Gov. Abbott’s School Safety Report

 

Last week, Gov. Abbott revealed his policy response to the tragic Santa Fe High School shootings. Though some of his proposals will gain bipartisan support, others – including the expansion of the school marshal program while simultaneously reducing the training requirements to become a marshal – are highly troublesome.

 

The most substantial fixes we need — more counselors, school facility upgrades, and additional support for our students — require funding, something Gov. Abbott largely glossed over in his proposal. Look for a more detailed analysis of his proposal from the HDC later this week, as we continue the discussion on how best to increase the investment in our local schools in order to keep our kids safe.

 

Quotes from the Ending the Separation of Families Events Last Week:

 

San Antonio rally: 

Rep. Bernal: “There is no strand of faith that makes what’s going on OK.”

Houston rally:

Rep. Wu: “This our civil rights moment. We are going to be on the right side of history. We will not let families be separated and treated like cattle.”

Houston rally:

Rep. Alvarado: “People proclaim to be pro-family when it comes to certain issues. Si estas con nuestras familias, you will end this ridiculous family separation policy that is inhumane.”

Austin rally:

Rep. Rodriguez: “It is bigotry and it is wrong. How we treat these children is not an immigration issue. It is a moral issue, and separating families is wrong.”

Texas House votes to extend life of maternal mortality task force

Legislation that would extend the life of a state task force studying Texas’ high maternal morbidity rates was tentatively approved by the Texas House late Sunday night.

Under Senate Bill 17, the state’s Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity would continue its work until 2023. The task force, launched by the Legislature in 2013, found that between 2011 and 2012, 189 Texas mothers died less than a year after their pregnancies ended, mostly from heart disease, drug overdoses and high blood pressure.

To continue reading this story go to the Texas Tribune.

Amid divisive issues, Texas lawmakers find unity in fighting pregnancy-related deaths

State Rep. Shawn Thierry told her House colleagues that she feared she would die when she gave birth, feeling as though her heart would “beat right out of me,” as she asked them to approve legislation Monday to extend and expand the role of a maternal mortality task force.

“No woman who chooses to bear life in Texas should ever do so in exchange for her life,” said Thierry, D-Houston, who read the names of mothers who had died as she dedicated her bill to their memory.

The House voted unanimously for her bill and other legislation to keep the task force operating and to give it direction for additional research into stemming the number of Texas women whose deaths are related to pregnancy and childbirth. Among its provisions, Thierry’s bill would direct a look at the disproportionately high rate of deaths among women who, like her, are African-American.

To read the rest of this story, please  visit the San Antonio Express-News.

To prevent maternal mortality, keep studying and take the Medicaid (Op-ed)

Failure to extend the state’s Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity is not an option. Texas’ maternal death rate nearly doubled from 2010 to 2014 and is third-world high.

A proposal to extend the task force until 2023 is the one bill that must pass this special session of the Legislature, other than the so-called sunset bill extending the lives of key state agencies that forced the session in the first place.

To continue reading this story go to the El Paso Times.

Editorial: Restore Medicaid therapy funds

A young Houstonian named Ky’ Zohn has been waiting eight months for physical therapy, which he needs for his balance and mobility. The four-year-old was born with delayed development, and his family is seeking therapy so he can learn to walk without falling.

The family is willing to go to a clinic or have home care but his mother says she can’t find an available therapist in Houston’s Medicaid program, the federal-state insurer for the disadvantaged and disabled.

Her son is not alone. A growing number of vulnerable children have reduced options for therapy, following the Legislature’s 2015 gutting of the rates that Medicaid uses to reimburse therapists.

To continue reading this story go to the Houston Chronicle.

Update on Cuts to Acute Therapy Services

As the Texas Legislature crafts the state budget for fiscal years 2018-2019, no version of the House or Senate budget has yet to include a full reversal of the Medicaid rate cuts for acute therapy services from 2015. Unless the cuts are fully reversed, tens of thousands of Texas’ neediest children can expect to lose some or all services – with families living in Texas’ rural communities expected to be hit the hardest.

As we did in 2015, Texas House Democrats are fully committed to taking the lead on reversing the cuts to acute therapy services so we can ensure every Texas child receives the care and support they need. Throughout the week, we will feature videos from the #TXKidsMatter campaign of children asking the Legislature to fully reverse the cuts, to build off last week’s successful online campaign that reached over 200,000 people.

Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr has prepared budget amendments to fully reverse the cuts, and House Democrats will follow his lead and that of other Democratic appropriators as we do everything we can to fulfill our promise to protect Texas children.

Redistricting and TrumpCare Updates

For the last few weeks, we’ve been following the developments in federal court over the Texas redistricting case, as well as Congress’ attempts to pass TrumpCare legislation. Here’s a brief update on the two stories:

Redistricting: Plaintiffs Seek Injunction for 2018 Election
Earlier this month, a three-judge federal court ruled that the U.S. Congressional District map drawn by the 82nd Legislature in 2011 is discriminatory to Hispanic and African-American voters in Texas, and was adopted with discriminatory intent.

Plaintiffs in the case — including the NAACP, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, LULAC and several African-American and Hispanic members of Congress — are asking for an injunction to ensure the discriminatory maps will not be used in the 2018 election. Read more in the Dallas Morning News.

TrumpCare: Epic Collapse for DC Republicans
Now that President Trump and Congressional Republicans failed to reach a deal on their TrumpCare legislation, the Affordable Care Act is here to stay “for the foreseeable future.” And don’t take our word for it; that’s according to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan.

One of the interesting stories to emerge from the Republicans’ colossal legislative failure on Friday is that North Carolina and Kansas are now moving forward with plans to expand Medicaid under the ACA, as 31 other states have done. Of course, we know that Texas – the state that has the most to gain with Medicaid expansion – has still failed to do so.

The solution here is simple: Governor Greg Abbott should direct the Health and Human Services Commission to work with the federal government on adopting a plan that draws down Texas’ share of federal tax dollars so that a million more Texans can access affordable health coverage. To not do so needlessly denies Texans the health care they would have if they lived in other states and costs our state billions of dollars a year that we should be recouping from the federal government.