This month’s newsletter includes information on Texas’s soon-to-be-implemented abortion trigger law, the release of our Topical Agenda for the 2022 North Texas State of Reform Health Policy Conference, and some insight on the growth of virtual care services.
State of Reform
1. Post-Roe abortion law disputes emerge
Texas’s abortion trigger law is set to take effect on August 25th, following the release of the US Supreme Court’s official judgement on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization last month. Under the Human Life Protection Act of 2021, virtually all abortions will be illegal, except for certain cases in which childbirth threatens a mother’s life. Once the law is in effect, physicians who provide abortions could be ordered to life in prison and fines of up to $100,000.
The state allocated $100 million to the Alternatives to Abortion program last year, and pro-life advocates have urged Texans to utilize the state’s many pregnancy centers, maternity homes, and adoption agencies. In an open letter to the State, Planned Parenthood explained how they’re continuing efforts to serve women affected by the law. “We’re here for good. Our doors remain open in Texas, and we are offering sexual and reproductive health care here in the communities we have faithfully served for nearly a century.”
2. Topical Agenda for Dallas conference now available!
We’re thrilled to announce that we released the Topical Agenda for the 2022 North Texas State of Reform Health Policy Conference last week! This year’s panel topics include “Initiatives for for growing the workforce,” “The role of Medicaid in SDOH financing,” and “The role of virtual care in a post-pandemic world.”
Our team is currently in the process of curating speakers for all of these conversations, and will release a more in-depth Detailed Agenda in early September. If any of these panel topics pique your interest, be sure to register to join us if you haven’t already!
3. Virtual care continues to expand post-COVID
In an effort to expand broadband access to 7 million Texans, the Texas Broadband Development Office announced its plan to distribute $5 million to internet providers who display a commitment to expanding the reach of their services. The plan was announced in TBDO’s Texas Broadband Plan released last month, which outlined 5 key areas of improvement for the state’s broadband landscape: digital literacy, devices, affordability, coverage, and quality.
In other virtual care news, Memorial Hermann Health System recently implemented a successful virtual monitoring program for nurses to supervise their patients while minimizing COVID exposure. State of Reform reporter Boram Kim wrote about how the virtual nursing platform, provided by the company Avasure, improved health outcomes and benefited the nurse workforce.
4. HHSC offering grants to expand FQHC Services
The Department of State Health Services recently opened grant application submissions for its FQHC Incubator Program, which aims to support nonprofit and public providers to expand their services to more underserved Texans. Existing FQHCs are eligible to receive up to $500,000 in grants, and $1 million will be given to select nonprofit organizations and governmental entities that provide primary care and are transitioning to become FQHCs.
HHSC is accepting applications on a first come, first served basis, and will close Dec. 31st or when all of the program’s funds have been distributed. All activities that receive funding must be completed by Aug. 31st, 2023. Interested organizations can request to apply for grants here.
5. Updating Medicare’s physician fees is a challenge again
In the wake of rapidly rising inflation following a complicated history of federal policy, physicians across the US are expressing disapproval over Medicare reimbursement rates. In his most recent piece, State of Reform columnist Jim Capretta overviews the history of Medicare reimbursement policy and evaluates Congress’s likely path for addressing the inadequate reimbursements provided to physicians as the cost of providing care increases.
With “notably low” reimbursement levels outlined by Congress in 2015, mandatory cuts to Medicare spending through the PAYGO and the BCA programs, and a record 8% inflation rate, Capretta says physicians face increasingly significant cuts to Medicare reimbursement. “Given the many challenges involved, the most likely path forward is the one that Congress has been on for some time: annual ad hoc adjustments to address immediate pressures without any clear plan for finding, much less implementing, a more enduring solution,” he writes.