5 Things Texas: Shannon Otenaike, Committee on Opioids and Substance Abuse, CHIP Funding

We are three months away from our 2018 Texas State of Reform Health Policy Conference on February 1st.  And, given how quickly things are moving, the health policy world as we know it will turn upside down three or four more times between now and then…

So, rather than focus on all things in health policy, and since the World Series is now over, here are 5 Things We’re Watching in Texas health care for the month of November.

DJ 5 Things Signature


1.  Hurricane Harvey’s impact on CHIP funding

The House is expected to vote this week on extending funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Appropriations for the program, which ensures nearly 400,000 children in Texas, ended September 30th.

This vote comes at a critical time when many state’s CHIP programs are due to soon run out of money. This is especially true in Texas. Originally, officials in Texas thought the program could run on excess funds until February, but unforeseen spending related to Hurricane Harvey has pushed up that timeline.

Co-pays and enrollment fees were waived for those affected by the hurricane, which meant that less money has flowed into the program than originally projected. Funding may now run out as early as January.


2. Speaker Straus, Rep. Cook stepping down

Last Wednesday, Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus announced he would not run for re-election in 2018. Straus said he will serve the rest of his term before stepping down. In a statement on Facebook, Straus wrote:

“We have accomplished what I had hoped the House would accomplish when I first entered this office, and I am increasingly eager to contribute to our state in new and different ways. Instead of acting on behalf of the entire House, I will now have a greater opportunity to express my own views and priorities. I will also continue to work for a Republican Party that tries to bring Texans together instead of us pulling us apart.”

Straus has not ruled out running for higher office.

On the same day, Representative Byron Cook also announced he would not seek re-election. Cook has served for eight terms and says he will work hard through the remaining 14 months of his term and then pursue other opportunities to serve Texas. In 2017, Cook was the chair of the committee that kept the “bathroom bill” from passing the Texas House.


3.  Committee on Opioid and Substance Abuse

Last week, Speaker Straus created The House Select Committee on Opioids and Substance Abuse to study both the prevalence and the impact of addiction in Texas. The goal of the committee is to create an action plan to combat the rising problem of opioid abuse, and develop legislative solutions to address the many health issues related to substance abuse disorders.

According to this analysis, Texas spent approximately $1.964 billion in healthcare costs related to opioid abuse in 2007 alone. This is the second highest expenditure in the country after California ($4.263 billion).

The committee will also look at the programs, policies, and guidelines that are currently in place, as well as evaluate the newly implemented Prescription Monitoring Program. By keeping a close eye on prescription rates, and assessing the programs already in place, the committee hopes to identify the best practices to tackle this public health emergency.



4.  Video: Shannon Otenaike, McGinnis Lochridge

Shannon Otenaike, an associate at McGinnis Lochridge, joined us for our latest episode of “What They’re Watching” to talk about the application of genomics in healthcare. Otenaike describes the exciting way physicians can provide patients with tailored medical treatment by analyzing their unique genetic makeup.

“Genomics offers the ability for a physician to look at, not just your medical history, but to be able to take your gene map and marry that with the vast amounts of medical information from medical encyclopedias about treatments, and symptoms, and synthesize all of that information to get a very tailored and unique treatment options for you as an individual. We can end up reducing a lot of medical error; we can end up reducing the number of people receiving treatments that are not as effective as another potential option.”



5.  “Me, too” in Texas

The organic and viral, “Me, too” campaign showed how broad sexual assault and harassment is among women. Alyssa Milano’s simple post on social media on October 15th set forth a flood of similar posts and was credited with launching over 6 million Facebook posts in 24 hours.

In Texas, rates of rape and sexual assault are slightly higher than the national average, according to the FBI. At 48 reported crimes of rape per 100,000, that is approximately 1/3 of Alaska’s 141 per 100K, but about equal with Ohio and South Carolina.

In the weeks after the “Me, too” campaign began, women from many industries, including senators and state legislators, came forward with their own experiences of sexual abuse. In an important piece on harassment among women in state capitols, Reid Wilson writes for The Hill, “for women in state legislatures across the country who routinely experience what they call a pervasive culture of sexual harassment, assault and retaliation, there is often little or no recourse.”