Legislative Hotline, Feb. 26: Invest in Coverage Expansion, Medicaid Improvements, TMA Tells Senators
By Joey Berlin



With nearly one-fifth of all Texans lacking health care coverage, the Texas Medical Association is urging the  Senate Finance Committee to provide comprehensive, meaningful coverage for the state. 

Written testimony Friday from TMA to the Senate Finance Committee on the state’s health and human services budget called for the Texas Legislature to pursue federal dollars to extend health coverage; enhance women’s health care throughout their reproductive lifespans; and make key Medicaid reforms, among other recommendations.

TMA noted that 19% of the state has no health coverage, including 1 million Texas children, or nearly 13%. Along with the physical harm that being uninsured can cause, TMA told the Finance Committee that the Texas economy also suffers as a result.

“The uninsured have lower lifetime earnings, contributing to high rates of poverty and financial insecurity,” TMA wrote. “Uninsured children miss more school, harming their future academic and economic success. Promoting economic prosperity for all Texans means ensuring not only a strong job market but also access to meaningful health care coverage across people’s life span.”

TMA’s recommendations included:

  • Ensure meaningful comprehensive coverage in part by pursuing federal funds to extend meaningful coverage; providing continuous coverage for children enrolled in Medicaid for 12 months; increasing funding for outreach and enrollment to Texans eligible for Medicaid or CHIP who aren’t enrolled; and providing women 12 months of comprehensive postpartum coverage.
  • Enhancing women’s access to preventive, primary, and behavioral health care throughout their reproductive lifespans, including through continued robust funding of the state’s women’s health programs.
  • Reinvigorate the Medicaid physician network by rewarding value-driven care initiatives in Medicaid; promoting cost-effective care; addressing social drivers of health; and strengthening border, rural, and underserved networks.
  • Increasing access to evidence-based community and crisis mental health and substance abuse services.

Texas is at a crossroad after avoiding a pandemic-driven economic disaster last summer, TMA told the committee; the state has money to invest, and the question is where it will go.

“Amidst a deadly global pandemic where health care coverage is more vital than ever, we believe extending health care coverage to more Texans and revitalizing the state’s health care infrastructure is the obvious choice,” TMA wrote. “As Texans painfully learned following the failure of the state’s electric grid, it is always costlier to rebuild than to fix a problem before something breaks. Texas’ alarmingly high and growing ranks of uninsured are the health care equivalent of a snowstorm – one that could break the state’s health care delivery system.” 

Prevent child abuse by funding MedCARES 

A key state grant program to prevent and treat child abuse and neglect must keep its funding in the Texas Legislature’s next budget, medicine is telling the Senate Finance Committee today.

In written comments representing the Texas Medical Association, the Texas Pediatric Society (TPS), and two hospital organizations, San Antonio pediatrician James Lukefahr, MD, told the committee that the Medical Child Abuse Resources and Education System (MedCARES) provides “an essential service to the public that merits state support.”

Launched in 2010, MedCARES “provides grant funding to hospitals, academic health centers, and health care facilities with expertise in pediatric health to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat child abuse and neglect,” Dr. Lukefahr noted in his written remarks. He works in a MedCARES facility at a children’s hospital.

“As child abuse pediatricians, the colleagues that make up our interdisciplinary team and I provide a key link between the medical world and the rest of the child protective system. We do more than provide direct care to children and adolescents with suspected child abuse and neglect injuries,” he wrote. “We are also critical advisors in efforts to improve the recognition and treatment of abuse [and] neglect in emergency departments and to provide education to providers in rural areas. We communicate with law enforcement, Child Protective Services (CPS) caseworkers, the judiciary, child advocacy centers, social workers, and patient families. We are often subpoenaed to provide testimony in criminal and civil court cases and medical case review, requiring upwards of 20-40 hours of preparation.”

Dr. Lukefahr’s said eliminating MedCARES funding would force centers to make cuts, resulting in a number of detrimental consequences, including delays in serving patients with reported cases of abuse and neglect because of limited staffing and clinic hours; inability to provide mental health services to maltreated children; and decreased ability to serve Spanish-speaking families in their own language because of the loss of bilingual medical assistants. 

Meanwhile, at that Other Capitol...

A Texas physician and TMA leader was scheduled to testify this afternoon for a congressional subcommittee examining immunizations for coronavirus. 

Austin pediatrician Kimberly Avila Edwards, MD, chair of TMA’s Committee on Child and Adolescent Health, was among six witnesses scheduled to give remarks for the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee’s Health Subcommittee Hearing on the Path Forward on COVID-19 Immunizations. Dr. Edwards was to speak in her capacity as director of advocacy and external affairs at Ascension Seton.

Easy Ways to Get Involved in TMA Advocacy  

Besides First Tuesdays, here are other ways to get involved in TMA’s grassroots advocacy efforts:

Stay up to date on TMA’s progress in the legislature. And take advantage of other opportunities to get involved with our advocacy efforts.

Last Updated On

July 17, 2023

Originally Published On

February 26, 2021

Related Content

Texas legislation