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August 11, 2004     (512) 463-0300

Senate Committee Examines Insurance

AUSTIN - The Texas Senate State Affairs Committee is examining the problems Texans face with health insurance, and will be preparing a report for the full Legislature when it convenes in January. That was the topic of today's meeting, August 11, 2004, in the Texas Senate Chamber.

Representatives from the Texas Department of Insurance, Texas Association of Health Plans, Texas Association of Business, and National Federation of Independent Business led off the testimony by describing the challenges faced by companies as they and their employees struggle with rising insurance costs. Business representatives testified that costs of health insurance, like other costs of doing business, ultimately wind up being passed along to the consumer. They said that's one reason that many employees are unable to purchase any health insurance through their employer.

During the last legislative session, lawmakers passed bills designed to make health care more available by allowing small companies to combine their employees into larger groups that would be more attractive to prospective insurance providers. The committee members today heard that some companies have had success with this plan, but that it is not a complete answer to the problem of rising health care costs.

Representatives from the American Diabetes Association and National Multiple Sclerosis Society described the problems that Texans with those two diseases may have in obtaining health care coverage for themselves and their families.

The committee is also studying recent Supreme Court decisions and their impact on Texas laws, as well as what changes need to be made so that Texas statutes conform with those court decisions.

Another problem being studied by the committee is how health care plans reimburse for services provided by doctors and hospital that they do not have contracts with, the out-of-network claims. Kim Stokes, from the Texas Department of Insurance, told the committee that the most common complaint is when an individual ends up in a network facility and has no control over which doctor provides treatment. This means the patient may have a big bill when out-of-network providers render services without the patient's knowledge. Other testimony came from representatives of health care associations and providers.

The Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs is Chaired by Senator Robert Duncan. Members include Senators Tommy Williams, Ken Armbrister, Rodney Ellis, Troy Fraser, Chris Harris, Frank Madla, Jane Nelson and Florence Shapiro. The committee recessed subject to call of the chair.

An archive copy of the meeting may be seen at the audio and video archive pages.

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