Twelve-month postpartum coverage and a boost to certain Medicaid payments top a list of measures Texas lawmakers are moving on that would bolster women’s health care services, in line with the Texas Medical Association’s priorities for this session.
TMA Director of Public Affairs Caitlin Flanders says the bills and budget additions would enhance health care access among new mothers and their babies in the wake of the June 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization regarding abortion. The decision triggered additional restrictions under state law and is expected to lead to an increase in pregnancies and young children.
On the Medicaid front, House Bill 12 by Rep. Toni Rose (D-Dallas) would extend continuous coverage for postpartum women to 12 months and has already garnered bipartisan support.
Athens family physician Doug Curran, MD, testified in support of HB 12 during a March 16 hearing of the House Select Committee on Health Care Reform on behalf of TMA and half a dozen other medical specialty organizations.
“Pregnancy-related complications all too often do not manifest themselves until months following delivery, making a full year of postpartum coverage essential,” he said, citing state health data showing nearly a third of maternal deaths occur between two months and one year after delivery.
The House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Article II, which deals with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission budget, also recently adopted three relevant budget riders, which would:
- Increase Medicaid payments by 10% to pediatricians caring for children ages 0 to 4;
- Triple add-on payments to rural-designated hospitals from $500 to $1,500;
- Put an additional $10 million in the 2024-25 state budget for mobile women’s preventive health units, which provide breast and cervical cancer and family planning services; and
- Expand eligibility for the Medicaid for Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, which includes cancer treatments and reconstruction, to Texans with a household income at or below 250% of the federal poverty guideline, up from 200%.
Hanoch Patt, MD, a pediatric cardiologist in Austin and a member of TMA’s Select Committee on Medicaid, CHIP and the Uninsured, says such targeted rate increases could have a catalyzing effect.
“It’s important for [physicians] to achieve what we can to start working on rate increases that will improve access to care and outcomes for these patient populations,” he recently told Texas Medicine. “We can go back and broaden those rate increases to other populations over time.”
When it comes to contraception, three bills would impact the provision of birth control to Texans.
House Bill 916 by Rep. Claudia Ordaz (D-El Paso) and its companion, Senate Bill 807 by Sen. Angela Paxton (R-McKinney), would require health plans to provide a 12-month supply of a covered prescription contraceptive drug at a time, up from a 90-day supply.
Austin obstetrician-gynecologist J. Scott Simpson, MD, testified in support of HB 916 at a March 14 hearing of the House Committee on Insurance on behalf of TMA and other medical specialty organizations representing pediatricians, OB-Gyns, family physicians, and others.
“Giving women the option and convenience to receive a 12-month supply of their prescribed contraceptive will improve access and potentially remove unnecessary administrative barriers for physicians, providers, and pharmacies, and [would reduce] logistical barriers, such as a lack of transportation, for women and families,” he told lawmakers.
Similarly, House Bill 141 by Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) would ensure the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) covers birth control for Texas patients, with parental consent. Currently, Texas is one of just two states that doesn’t cover contraception under the federally