5 Things Texas: Sen. Charles Schwertner, HHSC LAR, Congressional Dems

With September 11th this week, it’s worth taking a bit of time to review these photos from 9/11 now housed at the George W. Bush Presidential Library. If you have more time, check out ESPN’s short documentary “First Pitch” about President Bush taking the mound at Yankee Stadium in the post-9/11 World Series.

Now, back to what we’re tracking in Texas health care and health policy for the month of September, 2018.

With help from Marjie High
and Emily Boerger.

1.  HHSC releases legislative approps requests

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has released its “legislative appropriations request” for the 2020-2021 biennial budget years.  The baseline request is $77.3 billion in All Funds, an amount that is $200m lower than the previously approved biennial budget.  Of this, $30.2 billion is from the State General Fund, an amount that is $650m less than the previous biennium.  The HHSC budget covers more than 200 programs and more than 40,000 FTEs.

The 1358-page document outlines the spending requests from the HHSC that will be incorporated into the HHS Consolidated Budget to be published in October. That document will then go to the governor for his review and consideration ahead of finally submitting a unified and complete administration budget to the legislature for action next year.

2.  Two House Public Health committee hearings this week

The House Public Health committee has two hearings this week. Today at 1:00pm, the Public Health Committee will meet together with the House Committee on Urban affairs to discuss homelessness, mental illness, housing availability, and the way they intersect. They will also review the availability of supportive housing for those with mental illness.

Then on Thursday morning at 9:00am, the Public Health Committee will review available women’s health programs and services in the state and review the work of the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force. During this meeting the committee will also evaluate the implementation of certain bills passed during the 85th legislature such as HB 10 and HB 13, both of which are related to mental and behavioral health.

The committee meetings will be live-streamed here.

3.  Race for House Speaker gets 7th candidate

There are now seven declared candidates to replace Joe Straus as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, with Four Price having declared his candidacy formally with the Texas Ethics Commission last week.  Three candidates have signed a Texas GOP pledge that they will only support the favored candidate from the Republican Caucus: Price, Phil King, and Tan Parker.

That leaves the very distinct possibility that one of the other candidates might draw enough support from a potentially enlarged Democratic caucus to become Speaker with a bi-partisan majority. Moderates may be looking for a deal to forestall a more conservative agenda as some members are gearing up for another run at a bathroom bill and other social legislation that Straus “thwarted” as Speaker.

4.  Video: Senator Charles Schwertner

Dr. Charles Schwertner is the Chair of the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services. He joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss community based solutions for Child Protective Services challenges.

“First and foremost, children that are at risk of abuse and neglect need to be properly identified on a timely basis and removed from a harmful situation… those are not just the state’s children, but that local community’s children as well. And so how does the state try to enlist our local communities to make sure that we are providing a robust Children Protective Services system in our state?”

5.  Dems in US House planning big health reform package

US House Democrats are planning a significant set of health care reform legislation as part of their three-pronged focus of issues to kickoff the start of the session, should they re-take the House this fall.  Report:  “Health care would be divided into two buckets: cost containment, including reining in premiums, and lowering the cost of prescription drugs.”

The Democrats’ platform, called “A Better Deal,” has a series of policy proposals, including a detailed write up on pharmacy costs. Notably, however, there is no similar proposal related to health care costs in general. In the Senate, a similar platform includes policies related to prescription drugs. But, importantly, it also includes language about market consolidation (in general, not just health care) as a major structural problem of the US economy, and something they will seek to address.  That is something that could impact a sector that has and continues to witness M&A activity across a broad swath of American health care.