Legislative Interim Update, July

During the 85th legislative session, Methodist Healthcare Ministries tracked roughly 1,400 bills, supported over 500 bills, and worked to assist the passage of 224 laws that affect access to health care for Texas families. Keep up to date on how those laws are being effectively implemented and funded as intended through our legislative updates.

Interim Updates

Upcoming Meetings & Events

Health Care Policy News


View our 2017 Legislative Agenda





State Updates

Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc. Announces the Appointment of New President and CEO, Jaime Wesolowski
The Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc. board of directors has selected Jaime Wesolowski as the organization’s next president and chief executive officer. Wesolowski, a healthcare executive with three decades of leadership experience, currently serves as president and CEO of the Methodist Healthcare System — the largest provider of health care in South and Central Texas. Read more.

Healthcare stakeholders advocate for improving state’s Medicaid managed care system
Seventeen Texas organizations, including Methodist Healthcare Ministries, signed on to a letter to state lawmakers this week, asking for their help in addressing serious concerns with access to quality healthcare under the state’s Medicaid managed care system. The current system relies on private and non-profit insurance companies to coordinate health care for children, people with disabilities, seniors, and others enrolled in the state’s Medicaid system.

The Dallas Morning News recent investigative reporting series – Pain & Profit – shed a critical light on the state’s Medicaid Managed Care System, and its failure to provide adequate care for the system’s most vulnerable patients. The powerful testimonies in the report shared stories of hardships faced by Texans when the system failed to deliver care. As a result of these news reports, members of the Texas House Human Services Committee came together in mid-June to take testimony from state health care agencies, contracted managed care organizations as well as those families impacted in the news report. Similar testimony continued at a separate Joint Hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article II and Committee on General Investigation and Ethics. Lawmakers will focus on addressing these issues for the upcoming 86th Legislative Session.

Survey shows health care is a priority for Texans
The Henry J Kaiser Foundation (KFF) released a report this month, highlighting the health policy priorities of Texan residents. Texas is one of the 17 states that did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and it continues to have the largest uninsured population in the nation. KFF partnered with the Episcopal Health Foundation and obtained survey results from nearly 1,400 Texas.

Survey results showed that health care is a priority for Texans with over half reporting that the state legislature should increase spending on services and programs. The KFF report noted that roughly two thirds of survey respondents believe state government is not doing enough to ensure low-income adults can get health care. The same percentage of individuals believe the state should expand the Medicaid program. The survey stated 70% of Texans report some connection to the Medicaid program and a majority believe that the program is working well for low-income individuals. Future KFF surveys will focus on Texans’ experience with health care affordability and access.

Governor Abbott address mental health screenings after recent school shooting
Mental health screenings in schools have become a serious topic since the recent Santa Fe ISD shooting. Governor Greg Abbott recently released recommendations for addressing school safety and stated that the Telemedicine Wellness, Intervention, Triage, and Referral Project (TWITR) could be an ideal model for the whole state. TWITR, initially funded through a grant program in the Governors’ Criminal Justice Division, is organized by The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) and has provided mental health screenings to ten West Texas school districts. They plan to expand the program to an addition five school districts in the near future.

A new report highlights that since its inception, the project has triaged nearly 215 students via Telemedicine with the TTUHSC psychiatry department. The program had 25 students removed from school, 44 students placed in alternative schools and 38 students sent to a hospital due to their mental health. All the students were screened for multiple behavioral health concerns such as depression, anxiety and violent thoughts. Billy Philips, Executive Vice President for rural and community health at TTUHSC, stated that the project has been able to fill gaps in the lack of access to care in West Texas. Methodist Healthcare Ministries will monitor the Legislature’s implementation of the recommendations and continue to work with partners to address school mental health issues.

Texas opens applications for First Responder Mental Health Grant Program.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s office has established the First Responder Mental Health Resiliency Program which provides direct services to peace officers and other first responder agencies across the state. The program focuses on providing mental health services in a confidential and specialized method supported by trusted research, Funded projects under this fund source are expected to implement services that reduce stress for officers and first responders, improve coping strategies, and increase overall morale. Proposals are due on July 3, 2018 by 5:00 p.m. CST.


Federal Updates

Healthy Futures of Texas achieves victory in class action
The U.S. District Court in D.C ruled in favor of Healthy Futures of Texas and 61 other organizations in a class action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to continue evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs.

In the summer of 2017, HHS defunded the Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program, nearly two years earlier than expected. The program has seen numerous successes in creating medically accurate and age appropriate programs to prevent teen pregnancy across the nation and led to the creation of multiple studies that have been successful in both rural and urban communities.

The ruling this past June held that HHS’s early termination of the program was unlawful and ordered the federal agency to reinstate the grant program for all 62 class members. With this victory, Healthy Futures of Texas and other organizations can continue to provide services essential to prevent teen pregnancy.

Federal funding for opioid response programs available for rural communitiesThe Federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has released a notice of funding now available for opioid response programs. The Rural Communities Opioid Response Planning (RCORP) initiative for Fiscal Year 2018, will award 75 grants to rural communities. Successful awardees will receive approximately $200,000 for one year to develop plans to implement opioid use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery interventions designed to reduce opioid overdoses in rural communities. Interested organizations can find more information here. Applications are due by July 30, 2018.

Upcoming Meetings & Events

July 21: Mental Illness and the Criminal Justice System: Addressing the Challenges (San Antonio)
Aug 9: Hospital Payment Advisory Committee
Aug 17: Medical Care Advisory Committee
Aug 21: Bexar County Opioid Task Force (San Antonio)
Sep 15: UTRGV School of Medicine Research Symposium (McAllen)
Sep 27-29: The Texas Tribune Festival (Austin)

Health Care Policy News

Children's Health
Texans Care for Children: Report highlights strategies to prevent teen pregnancy in foster care and support pregnant and parenting teens in foster care. 

2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book Released: Report looks at child well-being using indicators across four domains – health, education, economic well-being and family and community

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