KEY CHANGES TAKE EFFECT TODAY
(Austin, TX) — Today, September 1, marks the start of the fiscal year in which many new state laws take effect as well as the budget legislators adopted during a tough session for Democrats and for health care providers, educators, and the families and children of this state. A positive policy and funding change included in an otherwise painful state budget deals with reforming how hospitals in Texas are paid by Medicaid for performing the same procedures on patients with similar health conditions.
A budget rider added to the budget by Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, creates efficiencies in the delivery of health care by establishing the same base payment rate or Standard Dollar Amount (SDA) for the majority of hospitals in this state. This new policy allows for supplemental payments for high cost functions like providing medical education and trauma care, and for variations in wages in different regions of the state. It also provides funding to help those hospitals that experience significant losses during the transition to the new payment method.
"The shift in how hospitals are paid is important not only to the taxpayers that expect us to cut costs while improving the quality of care in our hospitals, but also for many hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas that were facing a $57 million dollar loss simply because they are more efficient and are serving a higher number of women and children," said Senator Hinojosa.
Another bill by Hinojosa, S.B. 1220, requires the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to develop a plan for eliminating disparities between the Texas-Mexico border region and other areas of the state in the rates and expenditures for services provided to persons younger than nineteen under the Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Programs.
Hinojosa also added $219 million to law enforcement agencies for training and equipment to step up security along the border, including a Border Security Center in Hidalgo. A total of $9 million goes to the Texas Department of Public Safety to purchase high-altitude surveillance aircraft for intelligence gathering while remaining undetected by criminal organizations. S.B. 1416 by Hinojosa enhances border security efforts by amending the Penal Code to make it a state jail felony prohibited weapons offense to intentionally or knowingly possess, manufacture, transport, repair, or sell a tire deflation spike device.
Senator Hinojosa passed 54 bills during the 2011 legislative session. His legislation and budget priorities were education, enhance transportation and water infrastructure, strengthen border security and public safety, and preserve critical health services for residents of Senate District 20.