Texas legislators pre-file a variety of new health care bills
Even though the 87th legislative session does not start until Jan. 12, 2021, numerous Texas legislators have already pre-filed bills in preparation. The pre-filing period began on November 9th, when over 530 bills were submitted in a single day.
Health care is a prominent topic among the bills seen thus far, as both Democratic and Republican legislators seek to influence Texas health policy in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are Medicaid-focused, showcasing an early Democratic effort to expand affordable health care to more Texans.
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Here are some noteworthy examples:
HB 171, proposed by Rep. Diego Bernal (D), would expand Medicaid eligibility requirements in the state under the Affordable Care Act. Texas is one of the 12 states that has not chosen to expand Medicaid eligibility requirements. The state has the highest uninsured rate in the country, and this bill would extend health care to an estimated 2.2 million Texans.
SB 191 is sponsored by Sen. Johnson (D) and would grant Medicaid funding for managed care providers who use social determinants for care provision. The bill defines “social determinants of health” as “the environmental conditions in which a person is born, lives, learns, works, plays, worships, and ages that affect a range of health, functional, and quality of life outcomes and risks.” The bill states that when giving out Medicaid contracts, extra consideration should be given to managed care organizations that incorporate social determinant data into their provision of care in order to maximize health outcomes for “socially complex” communities in a cost-efficient way.
SB166 would place cost-sharing limits on insulin prescriptions in Texas. This bill is sponsored by Senator Blanco (D) and would prohibit health care plans from making enrollees share the cost of prescription insulin if the amount they are required to pay is more than $25 for a 30-day supply. This will lower the financial burden of diabetic Texans; according to Reuters, the cost of insulin in the U.S. nearly doubled from 2012-2016. The average Texan with diabetes currently pays approximately $5,608 a year for treatment, and one vial of insulin is estimated to be $300-$400. A report from KXAN shows that 1 in 4 patients receiving insulin has had to ration their supplies due to high costs.
HB 515 would require health plan providers to handle telemedicine visits the same way they would in-person visits. Rep. Oliverson’s (R) bill states that health care plan providers must reimburse covered health care professionals who provide services to patients at least the same amount that they would for in-person visits. This would eliminate any differences in payments for health professionals as the pandemic inevitably causes them to shift to meeting with more patients virtually.
HB 571 is sponsored by Rep. Gates (R) would create cost-positive bundled pricing for the state employees group benefits program. This proposal aims to reduce health care costs for Texans employed by the state and who get their health care through the employee group benefit program. Health care costs of the group benefits program will be reduced by contracting with health care facilities, physicians, or providers.