Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) held a press conference Wednesday with fellow House members highlighting a bundle of bipartisan legislative proposals that make up a priority healthcare package dubbed, “Healthy Families, Healthy Texas.”
The legislative healthcare package contains 11 pieces of legislation, including 5 bills carried by Democrats.
Among them, a bill by Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo) to expand telemedicine medical services; a bill expanding eligibility for children’s healthcare by Rep. Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio); a bill by Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) allowing licensed healthcare professionals working with patients at home or community support services to administer vaccines; and a bill by Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) increasing state investment in brain research.
“The goal of this legislative package is to make healthcare more affordable, more accessible, and to save lives through better health outcomes,” Phelan said, adding that those efforts would continue so long as he was speaker (something that earned enthusiastic nodding by Rep. Cortez who stood behind him).
“This issue knows no political or geographic boundaries,” said Rep. Toni Rose (D-Dallas), speaking about her bill to expand Medicaid eligibility to new mothers. “Increasing access to comprehensive health services for 12 months after pregnancy will facilitate the continuity of care and stop the deaths of women.”
The healthcare bills are being praised by at least two Texas-based policy groups — with a caveat — they are sad to see the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act is not on the table.
In a statement, Anne Dunkelberg, associate director for the left-leaning think tank Every Texan, said she hopes the healthcare bills will quickly see action in the Senate. “That chamber should not be the place where health coverage progress goes to die,” Dunkelberg said.
“Nevertheless, Every Texan is disappointed that Speaker did not include in this announcement any action on Medicaid expansion or a related bipartisan coverage solution, given that is the single policy change that would cover the greatest number of uninsured Texans, while bringing billions of homesick Texas dollars’ back to our communities,” Dunkelberg said.
Those thoughts were echoed by Texans Care for Children, a nonpartisan policy organization:
Texas is one of twelve states that has not expanded Medicaid, passing up on a deal offered by the Affordable Care Act to pay for more than $100 billion in federal funding for the healthcare of impoverished Texans.
An estimated 1.4 million uninsured nonelderly adults would become eligible for coverage in Texas if Medicaid was expanded, according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.
The state’s healthcare crisis and its consequences have only deepened during the pandemic.
A recent study by the nonprofit consumer health advocacy group Families USA found that a majority of cases and deaths from COVID-19 in Texas were tied to the health insurance gap. The study estimated that between January to August 2020, 7,457 deaths in Texas, or 57 percent of deaths from the virus at the time, were linked to a lack of healthcare insurance.
Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call