TMA: Use Rescue Act Funds for Long-COVID Research, Improved Access to Care
By Joey Berlin

Following its second letter to key state lawmakers about the best uses for one-time federal COVID-19 relief funding, the House of Medicine has established a broad vision for how that money could help Texas patients and physicians.

The Texas Medical Association – along with the Texas Pediatric Society, the Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and several other specialty societies – offered recommendations for the approximately $16.5 billion that the Texas Legislature is meting out from the American Rescue Plan Act. Medicine’s recommendations included requests for COVID-19 research, vaccine outreach, better access to care for low-income women, and much more.

This letter – like the one TMA previously sent with funding recommendations related to health information technology – was addressed to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick; House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont); and several other key state lawmakers, including Rep. Greg Bonnen, MD (R-Friendswood), and Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), chairs of the respective budget committees in the House and Senate.

The associations’ recommendations in the latest, Sept. 15 letter were geared toward increasing the number of Texans vaccinated against COVID-19; promoting integrated, timely treatment for Texans diagnosed with “long COVID”; improving women’s and children’s health; and increasing availability of and access to care.

TMA’s recommendations included:

  • Enhance access to COVID-19-related vaccine counseling and treatment – Establish an add-on payment for physicians who advise and counsel patients on the disease, ensuring physicians can allocate the time needed to help patients make informed decisions.
  • Increase access to multidisciplinary services for Texans diagnosed with long COVID – Provide grant funding to support the establishment of physician-led multidisciplinary clinics to treat people with long COVID, and fund a long-COVID research center within at least one academic health center.
  • Increase access to health coverage for children – Fund an outreach campaign to encourage families to enroll eligible children in Medicaid or CHIP, and “ensure their families can establish a primary care medical home to provide care,” whether it’s COVID-19 vaccines or treatment, vision and dental care, or behavioral health services, particularly as a result of the pandemic.
  • Promote timely behavioral health interventions for children, postpartum women, and families – Support recommendations from the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium to improve behavioral health care access for both adults and children, including expanded telephone access to physicians for perinatal care and mental illness treatment.
  • Improve access to care for low-income women – Support the consortium’s funding request to develop a Maternal Psychiatric Access Network similar to the network that already exists for child psychiatric care.

TMA also worked in several requests for money separate from the COVID-19 relief funds, such as:

  • Enhanced coverage under the state Medicaid Breast and Cervical Cancer Program to cover people at up to 250% of the federal poverty level;
  • Establishing a dedicated account for targeted Medicaid physician payment increases, including for improving maternal and child health and access to care in rural and underserved areas; and
  • Accelerating adoption of value-based payment initiatives in Medicaid by providing grants to help small practices implement them.

Last Updated On

September 24, 2021

Originally Published On

September 24, 2021

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Coronavirus | Texas legislation

Joey Berlin

Associate Editor

(512) 370-1393

Joey Berlin is associate editor of Texas Medicine. His previous work includes stints as a reporter and editor for various newspapers and publishing companies, and he’s covered everything from hard news to sports to workers’ compensation. Joey grew up in the Kansas City area and attended the University of Kansas. He lives in Austin.

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