COMMITTEE CONSIDERS MEDICAID REFORM BILL
(AUSTIN) — Twelve thousand mentally or physically disabled Texans would move off waiting lists and into managed Medicaid long term care under a bill considered by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee Tuesday. The bill also looks to increase efficiency and effectiveness of long term care under Medicaid. With the Texas population getting older and living longer, the costs of long term health care continue to increase. The state must find better ways to pay for long term care for the elderly and those with mental or physical disabilities, said Committee Chair and bill author Senator Jane Nelson of Flower Mound. "The managed care model has proven to ensure that patients receive efficient, coordinated services that keep them healthy," she said. "We can't continue to fund the same inefficient, unsustainable Medicaid systems and expect a different result."
Senate Bill 7 would extend the state's Medicaid managed care system for those with physical or mental disabilities, STAR PLUS, to rural areas, bringing almost four thousand eligible Texans into the system . It will develop better needs assessment tools, in order to provide service based on actual need rather than diagnosis, and would provide all acute care, such as hospitalizations, through managed care. Health and Human Services Commission official Chris Traylor told Senators that the reduction in acute care caused by regular managed care and access to health services will cover the cost of new clients.
Nelson said there is a lot of misinformation and fear about this bill. People, she said, are worried that the bill will reduce services or access to care. Nelson was adamant that this would not happen. "This bill does not reduce services," she said. "In fact it expands community care services to nearly 12,000 individuals who are not currently receiving any long term care services." She introduced a committee substitute to the bill, a modified version of the filed legislation, that included a number of provisions aimed at reassuring people they won't lose care. People who are already receiving services they like and need won't lose them or won't have to change them, said Nelson.
The bill remains pending before the committee.
The Health and Human Services committee also passed a bill to protect the children of teenage parents from preventable communicable diseases. Currently, a minor parent can consent to the immunization of their own child, but being under 18, cannot consent to their own immunizations. Doctors recommend that everyone around a newborn be fully immunized to reduce the risk of infection to the child. The National Campaign to End Teen Pregnancy reports that more than 26,000 girls under the age of 18 get pregnant in Texas every year. Senate Bill 63, also by Nelson, would give minor parents the ability to consent to and receive standard immunizations, which she believes will increase the number of parents and children receiving vaccines. This bill now heads to the full Senate for approval.
The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, February 27, at 11 a.m.