WEEK IN REVIEW
(AUSTIN) — The Senate approved a bill late Thursday that would allow the state to access federal unemployment insurance funds as part of the federal stimulus package. Gov. Rick Perry initially declined the money, because he believed that the one time payment could lead to future insolvency, in addition to requiring changes to the state's unemployment system in order to be eligible for funds. Many legislators disagreed with the Governor's decision, and the Senate approved a series of reforms to Texas' unemployment system to draw down this money.
The measure, SB 1569 by Tyler Senator Kevin Eltife, would change a person's unemployment benefit from one that calculates payments based on the four fiscal quarters previous to the most recent one, to a calculation based on the most recent four quarters. It would also extend benefits to part-time workers who lose their jobs, and to those who quit their jobs based on compelling family reasons. The bill now heads to the House for consideration.
Friday, the Senate approved a bill aimed at streamlining the state's Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid system. The bill's author, Senator and Health and Human Services Committee Chair Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, said the current system of state health entitlement programs is based on a "fee-for-service" model. Under this model, doctors are reimbursed through Medicaid and CHIP for each service performed for a patient, meaning individual payments for office visits, tests, and other health care services. "Under current law, payments continue even if a patient suffers serious harm from a preventable adverse event," said Nelson. "This legislation begins to refocus our resources to reward quality outcomes."
The bill, SB 7, would direct the Department of State Health Services to develop several pilot programs to explore various strategies. These include an obesity prevention pilot program, a pilot payment program based on quality of medical outcomes, and a pilot program to increase care co-ordination for Medicaid and CHIP recipients. The bill would end the practice of reimbursing hospitals and doctors when treatments make the patient worse instead of better. It would also require hospitals to submit data relating to uncompensated care.
Though the Legislature had a short week, the Senate passed nearly 70 bills in regular session. These include:
- SB 1049, by Uresti, would raise the legal age to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products to 19.
- SB 1175, by Patrick, which would make it illegal for a lawfully detained person to refuse to identify themselves to a police officer.
- SB 1123, by Duncan, would change the standard of causation for a person with mesothelioma who is making a claim in court.
- SB 294, by Hinojosa, would authorize certain counties to levy a $50 vehicle registration fee to fund local transportation projects.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, April 20 at 11 a.m.
Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.