The state budget is now in the hands of the conference committee charged with blending the House and Senate versions of what 2022-23 spending should look like. In a detailed letter this weekend to conferees, the Texas Medical Association laid out the investments lawmakers need to make in the health of their state.
Writing to the 10 conferees – five from each chamber – TMA once again pressed them on the need to address health coverage for Texas’ vast uninsured population. TMA recommended a budget rider to establish a Blue Ribbon Task Force for next year’s interim session. The task force would develop potential health coverage solutions and examine ways to increase Medicaid physician payment rates through value-based payment arrangements or alternative payment models.
“By official estimates, 5.2 million Texans lack health care coverage, the vast majority of whom are essential workers – the janitors, bus drivers, oil rig workers, and ranch hands – who have kept Texas’ economy humming throughout the pandemic, often risking their own lives in the process,” TMA wrote. “Uninsured Texans have poorer health outcomes and greater economic insecurity. And as Texas’ own data clearly show, the lack of health care coverage among postpartum women all too frequently results in the loss of a mother’s life. As our organizations and countless others have articulated over the past 120 days, increasing the number of insured Texans is of paramount importance to the state’s physicians, health care providers, employers, faith leaders, and consumer advocates.”
But TMA stressed that coverage access needs to be paired with “other investments in Texas’ safety-net, public, and mental health systems to promote a healthier, more prosperous Texas.” Medicine’s asks that the budget:
- Include robust funding for Texas’ women’s health programs, as well as for one full year of Medicaid postpartum coverage contingent on the passage of House Bill 133, the companion bill to provide that extended postpartum coverage;
- Enhance access to Medicaid for children and improve continuity of care for children already enrolled;
- Promote a robust physician workforce, including by adopting the Senate’s recommendation to provide $199 million for the state’s graduate medical education expansion grant program; and
- Strengthen the state’s public health system by supporting initiatives to promote early detection and prevention of potential disease outbreaks; modernizing the state’s immunization registry to ensure notifications are timely; and improving management of chronic diseases such as asthma, HIV, and diabetes. Among TMA’s recommendations is the adoption of a Senate rider that would increase funding for services in the Texas HIV medication program by $31.2 million.
Six other organizations signed on to the letter with TMA, including the Texas Pediatric Society, Texas Academy of Family Physicians, and Texas chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Today is the last First Tuesdays at the Capitol
If you haven’t yet registered for today’s final First Tuesdays at the Capitol, and you’re free this afternoon for some important advocacy on behalf of medicine, it’s not too late to register for free. With just 27 days left until the legislature adjourns, TMA’s lobby team will give a full update on what issues and bills are still in play, and let you know what you can do to help in the final stretch. Today’s program begins at noon.