Bipartisan Proposal Addresses
Healthcare Gender Gap
AUSTIN - A bill announced Thursday by Dallas Sen. David Cain would ban the gender discrimination in health insurance rates that has been indicated by a recent university study.
The study, conducted by Texas Woman's University, found that insurance reimbursement rates for female-specific surgeries average 32 percent lower than other procedures.
"It's now clear that there is a severe problem in how our HMOs and insurance companies reimburse doctors and hospitals for female-specific healthcare," Cain said, "and how those low reimbursements reduce women's access to the care that they need."
The study continued that insurance companies and Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) routinely follow reimbursement formulas set by the federal Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), formulas Cain said are flawed.
"Under the current insurance reimbursement system, the average Joe is worth more than the average Jane," Cain said.
Under HCFA formulas, an average of $2,000 is reimbursed for childbirth, which included 13 to 15 office visits, labor and postpartum care. But the reimbursement for a vasectomy, an outpatient procedure usually performed in an hour, is $500. The removal of a non-ruptured appendix , a one hour surgery with two follow-up visits, has a reimbursement rate of $1,400.
"With such low reimbursement rates, doctors and hospitals are forced to decide whether to get out of the business or to reduce services," Cain said. "Either way, the availability of healthcare for women suffers."
The problem is more severe in rural areas of Texas, where approximately 1 million women live in one of the 156 counties that do not have an OB/GYN, Cain said.
The bill, Senate Bill (SB) 8, is called the Omnibus Women's Equal Health Care Act. Senators Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin, David Bernsen of Beaumont, John Carona of Dallas, Mike Moncrief of Fort Worth, Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo are co-sponsoring the bill. State Rep. David Farabee of Wichita Falls is leading a group of sponsors in the House of Representatives.
"This is not about women versus men. This is not about consumers versus insurance companies," Cain said. "It's about fairness. It's about our families."
In other Senate news, the members of the Democratic Caucus announced their unified support of SB 928, sponsored by El Paso Sen. Eliot Shapleigh. SB 928 would fund a statewide insurance program for public school teachers and employees. Barrientos, the chair of the caucus, said the program is necessary to counter the shortage of more than 40,000 teachers in Texas.
In session, the Senate voted to pass 11 bills. And in the Senate's first Local and Uncontested Calendar of the 77th Regular Session, 19 bills were passed, including SB 689, sponsored by Lake Jackson Sen. J.E. "Buster" Brown.
SB 689 would direct the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC) to use federal criteria to define hazardous waste. The bill also establishes the authority of the TNRCC to define hazardous waste in a manner consistent with, but not more stringent than, the federal definition.
The Local and Uncontested Calendar is comprised of bills that are strictly local in scope or that are without opposition. The bills are scheduled by the Senate Administration Committee, which distributes a list to all senators by noon the day before the bills are considered. If there is no objection, the bills are passed as a matter of formality.
The Senate stands adjourned until 1 p.m. Monday.