This set of bills will stabilize the Texas health safety net

This set of bills will stabilize the Texas health safety net

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Texans have relied on technology more than ever, using telemedicine and telehealth to access medical care. House Bill 4 by Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, would codify the state’s ability to reimburse medical providers for these innovative services in order to incentivize more doctors to provide them, and in turn, provide greater and convenient access to care for Texas patients. Texas cannot realize the promise of telemedicine without robust, reliable, high-speed internet access. House Bill 5 by Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin, would create the State Broadband Development Office to award grants and low-interest loans for the express purpose of expanding access to broadband service in rural and underserved communities. The proliferation of broadband would ensure that Texans benefit from the immediate availability of telehealth care options.

House Bill 290 authored by Rep. Philip Cortez, D-San Antonio, aims to reduce the hassle factor in maintaining a child’s eligibility for programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The bill advocates streamlining the state’s income check process, creating more access for those who need it most. We can take a practical step to protect our mothers’ lives by passing House Bill 133 authored by Rep. Toni Rose, D-Dallas, which would extend Medicaid eligibility for new mothers for the first year of their child’s life.

House Bill 18 by Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, aims to create a prescription drug savings program for uninsured Texans to leverage the state’s buying power in negotiating lower prices for life-saving medications like insulin. This legislation would benefit Texans without health insurance and prevent costly visits to the emergency room. Oliverson also filed House Bill 2487, a watershed consumer and patient protection bill that would require price disclosure by hospitals for services in advance.

Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, authored House Bill 15 to create infrastructure to invest in research on brain health, including how to make strides in how we treat traumatic brain injury and substance use disorders. House Bill 797 from Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, would allow home care and hospice agencies to administer certain vaccines to medically fragile and elderly Texans in the comfort and safety of their homes.

Lastly, House Bill 4139 from Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, would create the Center for Health Equity to eliminate health disparities and aggressively pursue grants that advance this goal. To provide Texas consumers with greater options when choosing health coverage, the House has put forth a suite of bills (House Bill 3752 by Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, and House Bills 3923 and 3924 by Oliverson). These bills would expand free-market offerings for competitive health coverage for small employers, people who are not eligible for Medicaid or those who do not have access to employer-based plans.

Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, is speaker of the Texas House. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News. Got an opinion about this issue? Send a letter to the editor, and you just might get published. Over the past year, COVID-19 has magnified the health care challenges that so many Texans have faced. Passing the Healthy Families, Healthy Texas plan in the 87th legislative session would increase Texans’ access to quality care and provide transparency and affordability at a time when they need it most.

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