Legislative Interim Update, March 2

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 in the News


View our 2017 Legislative Agenda





Interim Updates

Texas Statewide Health Coordinating Council addresses the impact of health literacy
During the 85th Legislative Session, Methodist Healthcare Ministries worked with Representative Diana Arévalo (D-San Antonio) and Senator Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) to draft HB 3682, which requires the statewide health coordinating council and state health plan to examine and report on the impact of low health literacy on consumers and the health care system. HB 3682 passed through the House Public Health Committee with bipartisan support, but died on the House Floor due to lack of time.

The Statewide Healthcare Coordinating Council, who identifies challenges and concerns that Texas faces in health care services, is working to incorporate the issue of health literacy into the state health plan. The full council met on March 1 to learn more about the impact of health literacy on consumers. Read the meeting agenda.

As part of our legislative initiative to increase access to quality health care, Methodist Healthcare Ministries focused on the issue of health literacy. Only 12 percent of adults have proficient health literacy, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. Low literacy has been linked to poor health outcomes, such as higher rates of hospitalization and less frequent use of preventive services. Methodist Healthcare Ministries commends the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and members of the Statewide Healthcare Coordinating Council on being proactive and addressing the health care challenges associated with low literacy rates.

Voluntary guidelines proposed for hospital emergency departments to minimize opioid misuse
As part of its efforts to minimize the use of opioid painkillers in emergency rooms across Texas, the Texas Hospital Association (THA) has proposed voluntary recommendations to help reduce the number of opioid-related deaths in Texas. With input from the association’s behavioral health council, hospital physician executive committee and quality and patient safety council, the recommendations range from risk identification to prescribing guidelines.

Included in the recommendations are the development of processes for identifying patients both at risk for developing a substance use disorder and for those with a substance use disorder, including a protocol for treating pregnant and postpartum women. Hospitals should also consider adopting a multi-modal non-opioid medication model for acute pain management treatment and use short-acting opioids. The recommended guidelines are written in a way where hospitals can adjust them to fit their community’s needs, as reported by KXAN.

At the local level, Methodist Healthcare Ministries is taking part in Bexar County’s Opioid Task Force efforts. The issue will also be addressed by state lawmakers through upcoming hearings held by the House Select Committee on Opioids and Substance Abuse. 

Federal administration considers rule targeting immigrants who receive public benefits
The federal administration is considering new rules that would make it more difficult for immigrants to be admitted to the U.S. or to get green cards if they or their children receive certain public benefits, including some forms of Medicaid or Head Start. As defined in the proposed language, a public benefit includes cash benefits such as TANF, Head Start’s educational and developmental supports, CHIP coverage, financial help to purchase health coverage, SNAP assistance, WIC assistance, some housing support and transportation vouchers. The new rule does not exempt refugees and people seeking asylum from the public charge test. Read more on Reuters.

Although this rule is not final, if passed it would slow immigrants’ social and economic integration and raise public health issues. It would also deter people from seeking medical care when they need it most. Methodist Healthcare Ministries is working with its advocacy coalition partners to learn more about the proposed rule and educate state policymakers on the negative impact the rule would have on immigrant families.

Statewide stakeholder meetings scheduled to address immunization policies
Methodist Healthcare Ministries is working with The Immunization Partnership to hold several stakeholder meetings throughout the state to educate communities on current national and state immunization issues and policies. The meetings will be held in San Antonio on April 10 and in Laredo on May 10. There is no cost to attend, however, registration is required.

In Bexar County, only two-thirds of children are up-to-date on their immunizations, according to Texas Public Radio. The San Antonio Metro Health District has created multiple programs in place to make sure vaccines are accessible to the public, including free flu shots to the public.

This past legislative session, Methodist Healthcare Ministries supported legislation that would allow greater transparency with collection and access to immunization data. The bills were heard by the House Public Health Committee but failed to garner the necessary votes to pass.

Upcoming Meetings & Events

March 6: Texas Health and Human Services' Regional Community Partner Forum
Texas HHSC and the Community Partner Program (CPP) are hosting Regional Community Partner Forums around the state. Join them in San Antonio on March 6 for training and updates from HHSC, CPP, and YourTexasBenefits.com. Network with local community partners and develop relationships to connect clients to services. Learn more.

March 15: House Human Services Hearing
The House Human Services Committee will meet to review the history of Medicaid Managed Care in Texas and determine the impact on quality and cost of care. They'll also review initiatives that managed care organizations have implemented to improve quality of care, and review the Commission’s oversight of managed care organizations. View hearing notice.

March 15: Mental Health Awareness Art Contest
Texas HHSC invites students and adults to tell their stories about why mental health matters to them through poster art, writing, videos, and photography. Participants will have their work displayed and published across the state. The deadline to register is March 15.  View guidelines and entry form

March 20: Senate Finance
The Senate Finance Committee will meet to discuss options to increase investment earnings of the Economic Stabilization Fund and monitor the state’s progress in coordinating behavioral health services and expenditures across state government, including new local grant funding. View hearing notice.

March 21: RHP6 Stakeholder Forum
University Health System will present the draft RHP 6 Plan Update for Demonstration Year 7-8 of the Medicaid 1115 Waiver, and providers will share their transformation goals and strategies for the DSRIP program. The event is scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m. at the San Antonio Food Bank. Register here.

March 22: Senate Health and Human Services
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee will meet to review child welfare issues and reviewing substance use prevention, intervention and recovery programs, including services for pregnant and postpartum women enrolled in Medicaid or Healthy Texas Women Program. View hearing notice.

April 20-21: San Antonio Substance Use Symposium
The San Antonio Substance Use Symposium will bring health care providers and community members to collaboratively identify opioid challenges and solutions to this public health crisis. Topics will include prescription monitoring programs, medication to treat opioid use disorder, and special populations. Learn more and register.

Health Care Policy in the News

Federal budget
How the President’s Proposed FFY 2019 Budget Impacts Critical State Health Programs (NASHP)
The Office of Management and Budget released the president’s FFY 2019 budget request that proposes $68.4 billion for health programs administered by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, $17.9 billion less than 2017 funding levels. The budget proposal included an addendum designed to align the proposed White House budget with the recently passed Bipartisan Budget Act. Read more.

Mental health care services in the RGV
Mental health and treatment in the Rio Grande Valley (The Monitor)
The Rio Grande Valley is considered an underserved community of medical and mental health care, but some efforts have been made to abate this mental health care shortage. The local mental health authority, Tropical Texas Behavioral Health, has expanded its mental health programming with help from organizations, such as Methodist Healthcare Ministries, to provide low-cost mental health services to the community. Read more.

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