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October 8, 2002
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State Committee "Checks-In" to Long Term Health Care

AUSTIN - The Texas Long Term Care Legislative Oversight Committee met Tuesday, October 8, 2002, to assess possible suggestions to the upcoming 78th Legislature. Changes were suggested for improving the quality of health care and lowering the cost of nursing home liability insurance.

Testifying first was Don Warren of the Texas Legislative Council, who gave a brief review of statistical and demographic research of long term care facilities. Warren has been investigating the effect of legislation relating to nursing home care that was passed during the 77th Session. These bills include SB 1839, SB 415, HB 154, and of course, SB 1, the state budget.

Following the review by Warren, the Texas Department of Human Services made a presentation on emerging trends and issues in health care. Department Commissioner Jim Hine laid out examples of the process of surveying individual nursing home facilities. Bobbie Nichols and Tim Graves of the Texas Health Care Association then testified, stating that spending is up in all areas of long term care. He proposed a 10 per cent increase in the base funding rates to keep pace. Steve Lorenzen of the Health and Human Services Commission also brushed upon budget issues and rate analysis with the committee. Also testifying with recent reviews of regulatory issues of long term health care were Chris Spence with the Texas Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, David Bragg with AARP, and John Meinkowsky with the Disabilities Policy Consortium.

The problems are those familiar to many Texas health care providers and trauma care facilities: the nursing home industry in Texas is facing the crisis of rising insurance rates complemented with growing lawsuit settlements. The committee had hoped that recent legislation would solve these problems. A three to five year study is ideal, unfortunately the committee doesn't have that long. Studies conducted since the recent legislation was passed have not shown improvements. Now the members have hopes that they can help suggest new remedies for those problems.

The Committee also received an update on the Joint Underwriting Association (JUA) from Mr. Will Davis and JUA General Manager, Joe Chilton.

The committee is chaired by Senator Robert Duncan of Lubbock. Members include Senators Chris Harris and Mike Moncrief, both of Ft. Worth, as well as Representatives Craig Eiland, Jim McReynolds, and Committee Vice-chair Elliott Naishtat. Ms. Pat Karrh and Mr. Phil Elmore represent the public community as members of the committee.

"It's the Legislative Budget Board, which none of us are on, that will make the final decision," Duncan said, "time to make recommendations is what we need."

The Long Term Care Legislative Oversight Committee recessed subject to the call of the chair.

Session video and all other Senate webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's Audio/Video Archive.