Texas House Speaker lays out priority health care legislation, expanding Medicaid coverage for new moms

Texas Politics

Speaker Phelan lays out the House’s health care legislation priority package on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan (R – Beaumont) laid out the House’s health care legislative priorities on Wednesday, backed by a bipartisan group of representatives. The package of bills is called ‘Healthy Families, Healthy Texas.’

“The goal of this legislative package is to make healthcare more affordable, more accessible, and to save lives through better health outcomes,” Speaker Phelan said Wednesday.

“The legislation will protect the lives of new mothers, lower prescription drug costs for the uninsured, create affordable health coverage options and deploy and unleash rural broadband and telemedicine dramatically increasing access to care,” Phelan said, before introducing the representatives who authored the bills included in the package.

State Rep. Four Price, (R – Amarillo), is heading up the House’s efforts to expand telemedicine access across Texas. The bill, HB 4, aims to extend the access patients were able to utilize during the pandemic.

“The State of Texas temporarily granted waivers to allow these services to be delivered to patients via telehealth and telemedicine. These waivers have proven to have been beneficial to patients in the delivery of timely health care and have shown to be a cost effective tool in the delivery of healthcare,” Rep. Price said.

State Rep. Toni Rose (D – Dallas) championed House Bill 1333, a bill that would extend Medicaid coverage for new mothers.

“Childbirth, while they’re wonderful and an almost magical milestone in a woman’s life, can lead to postpartum depression, it can lead to medical crisis, premature deaths, including suicide,” Rep. Rose said during Wednesday’s press conference.

“Access to medical resources and counseling can save the lives of mothers. 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,” Rep. Rose said, explaining that the bill would extend coverage to one year after the mother gives birth.

Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D – Houston) discussed her bill, HB 15, that would fund brain research in Texas.

“We know that about 25% of the population is going to be impacted by cancer. But 75% will be impacted by some brain disorder or brain disease,” Rep. Thompson said.

“Just imagine being able to find cures, protocols, development, medications, and many other things for autism, schizophrenia, dementia, some spinal cord injuries. And what about suicidal intent here and children?” Rep. Thompson continued.

Speaker Phelan said he looks forward to seeing these bills through the House for now before moving on to push any of them with his colleagues in the Senate.

“We need to deliver for those Texans. Whether it’s mental health, prescription drugs, whether there’s maternal mortality, I mean, there’s so many topics behind me right now. And these members are so passionate about them. All we can do is what the House can do,” Phelan said.

The complete list of bills, provided by the Speaker’s office, is below:

Increasing Access to Care

• House Bill 4 – (Price, – Amarillo) Increasing Access to Telehealth and Telemedicine
• House Bill 5 – (Ashby, – Lufkin) Establishing Framework for Broadband Internet Expansion
• House Bill 290 – (Cortez, – San Antonio) Reducing Red Tape for Children’s Healthcare
• House Bill 797 – (Howard, – Austin) Increasing Flexibility in Vaccine Delivery

Improving Health Outcomes

• House Bill 15 – (S. Thompson, – Houston) Establishing a Brain Institute of Texas
• House Bill 18 – (Oliverson, – Cypress) Lowering Drug Costs for the Uninsured
• House Bill 133 – (Rose, – Dallas) Providing Greater Care for New Mothers
• House Bill 4139 – (Coleman, – Houston) Advancing Health Equity

Increasing Affordability of Health Care

• House Bill 2487 – (Oliverson, – Cypress) Promoting Transparency in Hospital Pricing
• House Bill 3752 – (Frank, – Wichita Falls) Increasing Health Coverage Options
• House Bills 3923, 3924 – (Oliverson, – Cypress) Increasing Health Coverage Options

The Texas Hospital Association came out in support of the entire package later Wednesday, calling it a step in the right direction for a healthier Texas.

“We couldn’t agree more that Texans should have access to the best health care services possible, and we are pleased to see a significant, bipartisan spotlight on the issue this session,” THA CEO Ted Shaw said in a statement.

“The package outlined by Texas House lawmakers makes major strides to increase access to and affordability, choice and quality of health care services. Texas hospitals wholeheartedly support these principles,” Shaw continued.

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