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October 15, 2002     (512) 463-0300

Study Continues on Binational Health Care

EL PASO - The Joint Interim Committee on Binational Health Benefit Plan Coverage met on Tuesday, October 15, 2002, to further examine Texas' interest in providing cost-effective health care plans to citizens residing on both sides of the border. Rapid growth along the border has quickly overwhelmed the health care services in those areas. Chairman Eddie Lucio opened the meeting by thanking Senator Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso, for co-authorship of SB 496, which helped create the committee to study binational health care along with Texas Department of Insurance and Texas Department of Health.

Perhaps the most influential testimony came from Senator Shapleigh himself, who reiterated that the 43 border counties in Texas comprise a region that is the poorest in the country. That equates to one in four Texans without a proper education, health care, transportation, and infrastructure. Health care is, of course, the priority in this matter.

Following Senator Shapleigh were Dr. Manuel Feliberti and Jeanette Skinner, representatives from Del Sol Medical Center, El Paso's only acute care center. Both testified about the increasing problem of medically-complex patients, who cannot afford health care, going into Mexico and paying cash for cheaper health services, then returning to El Paso when a procedure is necessary. Dr. Luis Acosta of the El Paso County Medical Society then testified, presenting the problem of uninsured Mexican nationals arriving at the border with emergency situations and being transported to a hospital on the U.S. side of the border.

Overall, there is still a shortage in medical personnel and resources in El Paso, as well as in border regions on both sides. Dr. Acosta suggested that a medical school in El Paso could both train medical personnel and keep them in El Paso where they are needed.

In addition to Senator Lucio, the committee members include Representative Jim Solis, Texas Insurance Commissioner Jose Montemayor, Don Gilbert of Texas Department of Health and Human Services, Ms. Irene Armendariz, Dr. Elena Marin, and James Springfield. Commissioner Gilbert was not present but was represented by David Luna of Texas Department of Health and Human Services.

"We have so many problems and questions," said Lucio. "Solutions are what we are looking for, and hopefully we can find some."

The committee stands at recess subject to the call of the chair.

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

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