An important slate of health care reform bills has passed in the Texas House. It’s now up to the Senate to move the legislation forward, and if these bills are signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, the result will be a healthier, more prosperous Texas.
The bills, bundled together as the “Healthy Families, Healthy Texas” plan by Speaker Dade Phelan, are a bipartisan effort—something truly rare in these hyperpartisan times. They focus on three things: increasing access to care, improving health outcomes and making care more affordable.
To improve access to care, House Bill 4 expands the use of telemedicine (also called telehealth). During the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine proved an invaluable tool for Texans, many of whom wouldn’t have been able to see their doctors otherwise. The bill will also allow Medicaid recipients to use telemedicine services and would address technology gaps (allowing for phone calls when patients don’t have broadband, for example).
House Bill 290 strengthens the states’ Medicaid program for vulnerable children by streamlining the eligibility process and ensuring continuous coverage for up to a year past eligibility.
To improve health outcomes, House Bill 18 will reduce the cost of prescription medications for approximately 3 million uninsured Texans. We know that medication compliance is a big factor in determining outcomes; the bill would give the uninsured access to to deeply discounted prescriptions.
House Bill 133 addresses maternal health and mortality by expanding Medicaid eligibility to new mothers for up to a year after their child’s birth.
“Access to medical resources and counseling can save the lives of mothers,” notes the bill’s author, state Rep. Toni Rose, D-Dallas. “The safety net for those needing assistance disappears 60 days after delivery, despite the medical proof that their lives remain in danger for a year or more after birth.”
There are other elements of the Healthy Families, Healthy Texas plan that haven’t passed the House yet. We would like to see action on these items, too. A provision to require price transparency, House Bill 2487 from Rep. Tom Oliverson, is a game-changer that would finally end the pernicious practice of surprise billing and inconsistent, arbitrary pricing that threatens so many Texans financially. Fortunately, that bill’s Senate companion passed that body on March 31, and is headed to the House.
One thing notable about Healthy Families, Healthy Texas is that it makes fixes to our health care system that go beyond the usual calls to expand Medicaid coverage to more people. Coverage doesn’t equal care, and Healthy Families, Healthy Texas focuses on the delivery and affordability of health care services.
A common complaint from the left is that these programs are the equivalent of “small ball” when Medicaid expansion helps more people. The truth of the matter is that these bills would help more Texans than expansion could.
That’s a home run for Texas families.