5 Things Texas:  Rep. Lina Ortega, What You Missed, Deputy AG Ryan Bangert

Thank you to the almost 350 senior health care executives and health policy leaders who joined us at our 2019 Texas State of Reform Health Policy Conference!  It was a great event, and one of the most diverse convenings of senior health care leaders in Texas.

We’re already beginning to turn our attention to our first Dallas event this fall. If you have an interest in joining our Convening Panel for our upcoming North Texas event, drop me a note and let me know.


DJ 5 Things SignatureWith help from Emily Boerger. 


1.  Podcast: A Conversation with Rep. Lina Ortega

Representative Lina Ortega is a Democrat representing Texas House District 77 in El Paso. First elected in 2016, Rep. Ortega now serves on three committees – Public Health, House Administration, and Transportation.

Rep. Ortega recently sat down with me to record this podcast, where she discusses her background, priority legislation in the House Public Health Committee, the economics of health care, and working with colleagues across the aisle. Take a listen here, and be sure to subscribe!


2.  What You Missed in Austin

Last week we hosted the 2019 Texas State of Reform Health Policy Conference in Austin, bringing together over 300 folks from across the silos of Texas health care. To get a feel for the sights, sounds, and energy of the event, take a look at this highlight video from the day. We also recorded the day’s keynote presentations which we feature throughout this edition of 5 Things.

For example, our Afternoon Keynote Session on the future of Texas health care featured a panel as diverse as the audience at State of Reform itself. Joining us was Don Langer, President of UnitedHealthcare of Texas, Dianne Longley, Managing Principal at consultancy Health Management Associates, and Gerald Tracy, leader for the State Initiatives Program at 3M Health Information Systems.

3. Keynote: The shape of the 2019 legislative session

During our event, we spent some time talking about the “Shape of the 2019 Legislative Session” with Rep. Sarah Davis and Rep. Chris Turner. These are two of the most important players in the 150-person chamber, folks that often find themselves at the center of majority coalitions in the House.

Rep. Davis talked about the importance of extending health coverage to new mothers. Rep. Turner discussed his nuanced counsel on health policy to Democrats running for the nomination for president. And, of course, both talked about the early leadership from Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, and Speaker Dennis Bonnen.

If you want to hear first hand about how best to understand the 2019 legislative session, this is a good place to start.

4.  Update on the lawsuit to repeal the ACA

Ryan Bangert serves Texas as Deputy Attorney General under Ken Paxton.  Bangert and I spoke at length at State of Reform about the status of the Texas-led lawsuit to repeal the ACA. Bangert noted that the Supreme Court is “a different court today” than when it decided NFIB v. Sebelius in 2012, with two new conservative members.

He thinks that because of the nuanced way Chief Justice Roberts wrote that opinion, some of the decision establishes precedent for this latest case, while some may not. When I asked him if all of these state-led lawsuits against the federal government – a trend started under Obama’s term and continuing into the Trump administration – undermine our ability as a republic to address challenges, he said no.  “I think it is an unalloyed good… I don’t think it’s activism so much as it is federalism and constitutionalism in action.”


5.  A look at data from paid claims

Robin Gelburd is the President of FAIR Health, which has data on a few billion claims paid in the US.  At 57 billion (with a B) paid claims, it is the nation’s largest repository of commercial and Medicare claims data. Consequently, Gelburd has a tremendous amount of comparative cost and utilization information at her fingertips.

During her Morning Keynote with us, Gelburd highlighted some notable elements of the Texas State health care system. Gelburd described how the presence of free standing ERs in Texas may create an increase in primary care claims in the ER, and shifts the usage of ERs to a younger cohort compared to the rest of the nation. Gelburd also broke down services, costs and claims data on opioids, where she highlighted that although San Antonio includes just 5% of the state population, the city has 60% of the state’s claims associated with opioid abuse/dependence. You can view her full slide deck here.