Today the Texas Senate Health and Human Services committee continued its work on Senate Bill 6, which would reform the state's adult and child protective service system, and the American Heart Association (AHA) outlined important issues that affect the health of all Texans. The AHA held a press conference to promote its agenda that seeks to reduce the impact of heart disease and stroke on the state's quality of health and economy. More than 150 Texans die each day as a result of cardiovascular disease, making it the number one cause of death in the state. Health care costs related to heart disease exceed $7.5 billion each year. Key to reducing both the number of deaths and the quality of life for stroke and heart attack survivors, says the AHA, is an improvement in preventative services. This includes a campaign against childhood obesity and smoking, and an increase in state funding to improve treatment facilities, especially in rural areas. The AHA also supports a $1 dollar per pack cigarette tax, of which 5 cents would be directed to smoking cessation programs.
Senator Robert Deuell, a licensed physician, stood with AHA representatives in calling for improvement to rural health care facilities. He has authored Senate Bill 330, also called the Texas Stroke Act, to help hospitals rapidly diagnose and treat stroke victims. One of the bill's key provisions would increase reimbursements to health care facilities which add infrastructure and equipment intended to treat stroke patients quickly. "Many times even health care providers don't realize how important it is to treat early," said Deuell, "When I went to medical school 20-some years ago, it was said there is not much you can do about it. We know now that hospitals with a stroke program can make a big difference."
Dallas Senator Royce West was joined by a number of his Senate colleagues in calling for a delay in implementing changes proposed by the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) that would move about 2.3 million patients from Medicaid to a managed health care system. The HHSC made this recommendation in an effort to reduce the cost of indigent health care to the state, but West said today the transfer could have the opposite effect. "We have met with health care and county officials from all over Texas and they are in agreement that the proposed changes could have a drastic negative impact that reaches far beyond the next biennium," said West. Under the plan proposed by HHSC, urban areas will be moved to a managed, HMO-style plan, that is estimated to save the state about $70 million for the 2006-07 biennium. However, West said, hospitals that use managed care are not eligible for a number of federal grants, and implementing the HHSC's recommendations could cost the state more than $150 million dollars over the next biennium. West did not go so far as to call for an outright rejection of the plan, but asked for more time in which to analyze the problem so the best solution can be found.
The Health and Human Services committee considered more than 50 amendments to Senate Bill 6, the Senate's Adult/Child Protective Service reform legislation. Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst said today that he is pleased with the progress the committee is making. He added that he expects the bill will pass through the committee this week, and that SB6 could be on the floor as early as Monday. The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, February 23rd, at 10:00 A.M.