The Texas State Senate - Judith Zaffirini Press Release

from the office of State Senator Judith Zaffirini

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Leigh Flores
512/463-0121
April 18, 2001

MEDICAID RECIPIENTS TO BENEFIT FROM NEW PROCEDURES

Children's Medicaid eligibility simplified; nursing home residents basic services expanded

Children and elderly served under the Texas Medicaid system would benefit from two bills by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, that were passed unanimously by the Texas Senate today (Wednesday). The legislation includes:

SB 43 eliminates the current face-to-face application process and recertification requirement for children under 19 years of age. The bill provides for continuous eligibility for children under age 5 and ensures Texas Medicaid eligibility verification procedures will be no more difficult than those of the Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

"CHIP made apparent the complexity and redundancy of the Medicaid eligibility process," Sen. Zaffirini said. "Under CHIP, parents simply fill out a 2-page application for coverage of their children. I want to ensure that all those in need can access benefits in a timely manner."

SB 43 cosponsors include Sens. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin; David Bernsen, D-Beaumont; Mario Gallegos Jr., D-Galena Park; Chris Harris, R-Arlington; Jon Lindsay, R-Houston; Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville; Frank Madla, D-San Antonio; Mike Moncrief, D-Fort Worth; Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso; Carlos Truan, D-Corpus Christi; and Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio. House Bill 1604, by Representative Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, is the companion bill in the House of Representatives. SB 43 was recommended unanimously by the Senate Interim Committee of Human Services in 2000. Another interim committee chaired by Senator Zaffirini first recommended Medicaid simplification unanimously in 1994.

Sen. Zaffirini also authored SB 34, which provides approximately 66,000 Medicaid recipients residing in nursing facilities an annual dental examination by a licensed dentist. The AARP estimates that 90 percent of these 66,000 recipients do not currently receive annual exams.

"Senators are playing a leadership role in working to correct this very serious matter in nursing home care," said Alan Hardy, a long-term care specialist for AARP. "SB 34 assists many who, because they cannot communicate due to an illness, might be in pain, suffer malnutrition and even severe weight loss before their problem is discovered. There are few programs that will have such a wide and beneficial effect as this one for such a small cost."

"SB 34 improves nursing home residents' quality of life," Sen. Zaffirini said. "Currently, if a resident cannot afford dental care, the only services available under Medicaid are emergency dental services. The Senate Committee on Human Services reported that since little attempt is made to deal with dental problems until residents are in pain or unable to eat, the emergency care eventually received is often more expensive than routine care."

SB 34 was based on the unanimous recommendation of the Senate Interim Committee on Human Services and the recommendations of nursing home industry representatives and resident advocates throughout Texas and received the support of the AARP, the Alzheimer's Association, and the Texas Dental Association. House Bill 479, by Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, is the companion bill in the House of Representatives.

Both bills must be passed by the House of Representatives before being sent to the Governor for his consideration.

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