This editorial first appeared in The Dallas Morning News. Guest editorials don’t necessarily reflect the Denton Record-Chronicle’s opinions.
The Texas Legislature, despite its proclivity to consider at least one issue each session that draws an international ruckus, is managing to move forward on some significant health care reforms even while avoiding the debate over expanding Medicaid. Instead, House Speaker Dade Phelan has deftly guided the House toward a bipartisan slate of bills that, collectively, would make health care better in Texas.
These bills are not going to solve our health care cost and delivery problems. Texas still has too many uninsured residents, health care is still unaffordable even for many people who have insurance, and people in rural Texas will still struggle to get to their doctors.
But politicians who can be satisfied with half a loaf can do some good. The bills, some filed by Republicans, some by Democrats, aim to ease a few of the worst pain points, and, we hope, set the stage for productive discussion and change in future sessions. Here is where Washington can learn something from Austin about setting aside the fights that are going nowhere and focusing on points of agreement.
One bill would expand care in a small but crucial way. For eligible pregnant women, medical assistance would continue for 12 months after they give birth. Texas struggles with maternal mortality, especially among low-income women, and this extension is designed to care for mothers during an important health window.
A bill that would essentially impose a price control on Medicaid reimbursement rates for telemedicine so that they stay at the same level as in-person visits is something we oppose. At some point, we need to implement ideas that lower the cost of care. But legislating is rarely a game where you get everything you want, and in this case there is solace in the hope that this bill will encourage doctors to continue offering or expand the service and thereby enhance the services more Texans can receive. We hope the Legislature reviews how this is working down the road and revises it, if needed.
Of course, telemedicine service is no good to people who don’t have internet access, and one bill would create a state plan to expand broadband service in Texas.
Two of the bills attack some of Texas’ most pressing health care issues in fresh ways. Legislation would create a prescription drug savings plan for uninsured people who qualify. And another would allow the Texas Mutual Insurance Co., which handles workers’ compensation insurance, to offer health insurance or benefits to individuals or small companies outside of the traditional health insurance system. Here, lawmakers would take a solution that eased the cost of workers’ compensation insurance and let it loose on health insurance.
Other bills address red tape that can prevent vulnerable people from getting care, coordinating resources to improve health equity, and other issues.
One of the nice things about governing by collaboration rather than by death match is that if an idea doesn’t work, lawmakers can fix it without shame or risk to their careers.
Most of the bills in Phelan’s health care package have passed the House but still need Senate approval. Without much time left in the session, we hope the Senate will quickly give this legislation the attention it deserves.