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February 20, 2008 (512) 463-0300

LEGISLATORS LOOK TO IMPROVE INSURANCE COVERAGE

(AUSTIN) -- Texas leads the nation in number of uninsured citizens at more than five million, and legislators are continuing last session's efforts to cut that number. The House and Senate passed bills which would redirect money and create health option plans to help the uninsured get employee sponsored health coverage. Those patients are a significant burden on the state's healthcare system, accounting for $11.3 billion in uncompensated care each year. Wednesday, the Medicaid Reform Legislative Oversight Committee met to hear from Health and Human Services officials on the progress in developing reforms passed last session.

In 2007, legislators took advantage of a restructuring of federal Medicaid funds that gives more latitude to states on how to spend those funds. Senate Bill 10, authored by Senator and Medicaid Reform Legislative Oversight Committee Co-Chair Jane Nelson, addresses Medicaid reform in four ways. First, the bill seeks to increase primary and preventative care, to keep Texans healthy and away from chronic conditions that make up the bulk of healthcare costs. Second, it would create a health opportunity pool, to subsidize premiums and deductibles for uninsured Texans through their employer's health plan. Third, it changes the way Texas spends federal and state healthcare dollars to optimize funding allocation, and finally, seeks to update and expand needed medical infrastructure.

Committee members also heard testimony relating to different benefit packages from insurers and hospital officials. Lawmakers will look at best-practices models from within the state and around the nation in crafting a robust benefits package that is affordable but gives adequate health coverage.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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