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May 29, 1998     (512) 463-0300

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES COMMITTEE HOLDS PUBLIC HEARING

AUSTIN - Members of the Senate Interim Committee on Health and Human Services met in the Senate Chamber on Friday, May 29, to hear testimony in a public hearing regarding several of the committee's Interim charges. The committee is chaired by Senator Judith Zaffirini of Laredo and members include Senators John Carona of Dallas, Chris Harris of Arlington, Jon Lindsay of Houston, and Frank L. Madla of San Antonio.

The members received briefings and progress reports from a number of state agencies and commissions in different areas of health and human services. The first panel consisted of representatives from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Office of the Attorney General, and the Texas Department of Human Services. These witnesses updated the members on the implementation of Senate Bill 30 which relates to Medicaid fraud and gave recommendations for statutory and agency rule changes. The members were briefed on ways to reduce fraud and improper payments under state Medicaid and welfare programs. The committee also heard testimony regarding federal welfare reform from representatives from the Texas Workforce Commission and the Office of the Attorney General.

Passed last session was Senate Bill 55 which placed strict regulations on the sale, distribution, and use of tobacco products to minors. Representatives from the Texas Department of Health and the Office of the Comptroller provided a progress report regarding the implementation of this bill. The members also heard testimony regarding the recent developments in the federal tobacco settlement from the executive director of the Texas Office of State and Federal Relations.

Testimony then shifted into areas of demographic trends of Texas that will impact the health and human service delivery system in the future. Witnesses provided testimony regarding current patient billing practices by Texas hospitals and health care providers in an effort to promote and ensure their accuracy, clarity, and timeliness. This testimony came from representatives of United Regional Health Care, the American Association of Retired Persons, the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners, and the Health Professions Council. Public testimony followed.

The committee's next meeting will be in August. The committee will gather their findings and make any necessary recommendations to the 76th Legislature which convenes in January of next year.

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