WEEK IN REVIEW
FINANCE APPROVES MEDICAID RECOMMENDATIONS
(AUSTIN) — A Senate subcommittee charged with plugging a $10 billion Medicaid shortfall delivered its recommendations to the full Finance Committee on Thursday. The full committee approved the suggestions, which would increase funding to health and human services by about $4 billion over what was proposed in the initial Senate version of the budget. Subcommittee Chair Senator Jane Nelson of Flower Mound said it was difficult to balance the needs of those who require state services with taxpayer expectations of a lean budget.
The subcommittee recommendations would remove proposed cuts to Medicaid reimbursement rates for doctors, and restores funding to important Department of Aging and Disability Services programs, including occupational rehabilitation and services for blind and autistic children. The Finance Committee approved recommendations to increase funding to Child and Protective Services, adding funds for 461 CPS employees, an increase of 100 over current staffing levels. Some items in the recommendations were pended by the committee, obligating Senators to consider these items, including restorations to reimbursement rates for hospitals and nursing homes, before the final budget is passed. Nelson also said that her subcommittee found around $3 billion in efficiency savings, which she says will actually improve quality of care in many cases.
On Wednesday, the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee considered a bill that would permit border checkpoints for vehicles heading into Mexico. Brownsville Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. said that the current wave of violence plaguing northern Mexico is fueled by guns and cash streaming in from Texas. Currently, state troopers and border patrol officials can only set up south-bound checkpoints within 125 feet of certain international bridges, and then may only look for stolen cars. Lucio's bill would permit the state to set up checkpoints anywhere within 25 miles of the international border with Mexico, and would empower law enforcement to search vehicles for guns, ammo, bulk cash, and technology that would aid the cartels in prosecuting their street war. Lucio believes it is vital to tackle the problem of drug violence in northern Mexico before it spills across the Rio Grande. "By disrupting the transportation of illegally smuggled guns, ammo, cash and technology, Texas would be protecting Texans in a way that does not interfere with our cherished liberties," he said. The bill remains pending before the committee.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved a bill Tuesday that would change the way the state pays for Medicaid Services. The measure by committee Chair Jane Nelson would move the state to an outcome-based reimbursement model, as opposed to the pay-per-procedure model in place today. Nelson said she is concerned that the current system rewards further procedures rather than healthy outcomes. "The more tests, treatments or examinations the greater the financial reward," she said.
Her bill would direct the state Health and Human Services Commission to create guidelines that consider efficiency and effectiveness of treatment. These guidelines would reduce doctor reimbursement rates for Medicaid patients in the case of avoidable complications or readmissions. It would also institute a co-pay for Medicaid patients that use the ER for non-emergency procedures, and it commissions a study to gauge the impact of an outcome-based model for use in long-term facilities, such as nursing homes. This bill heads to the full Senate for consideration.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, April 4 at 1:30 p.m.