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August 13, 2002     (512) 463-0300

Joint Committee Examines Border Health Insurance Questions

The special health insurance problems found along the Texas-Mexico border are the subject of an Interim Committee of the Texas Legislature. The Interim Committee on Binational Health Benefit Plan Coverage held its first meeting today, August 13, 2002, in Austin.

The committee has the following duties:

  1. determine the need for binational health benefit plan coverage
  2. assess the health care needs of the border area and how these needs can be served by various types of providers
  3. assess the affordability, cost-effectiveness, economic impact and improved health status achievable through binational health benefit plan coverage

One issue facing the committee is what to do about non-US citizens that work on this side of the border and are not provided health insurance by their employers. When these workers are injured, they end up at border hospital emergency rooms and the taxpayers may wind up paying their bills.

Rod Bordelon from the Office of Public Insurance Counsel said the committee should address the fact that along the border there is a greater level of the uninsured than elsewhere in Texas.

Lisa McGiffert from Consumers Union testified that almost two thirds of all non-US citizens are uninsured and the majority of those are Hispanic. She said that should HMOs operate a cross-border plan the state would need to ensure that certain consumer protections would be in place, such as how Mexican citizens covered by the plan could appeal any denial of service by an HMO.

Dr. David Warner from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas testified that more and more Mexican citizens are coming to the U.S. for elective procedures that may not be available in Mexico.

Other witnesses said the state needed to reorganize the health care system along the border because people from one side of the river have difficulties obtaining health care on the other side.

The Interim Committee on Binational Health Benefit Plan Coverage is chaired by Senator Eddie Lucio and Representative Jim Solis. Members include Commissioner Jose Montemayor of the Texas Department of Insurance, Commissioner Don Gilbert from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Elena Martin from Su Clinica Familiar, Mr. James Springfield of Valley Baptist Medical Center and Irene Armendariz from Superior Health Plan. The committee*s next meeting is scheduled for September 4 in Harlingen.

You can access the archived audio webcast from the Senate's web page of the Interim Committee on Binational Health Benefit Plan Coverage.

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