AUSTIN — The federal government’s passage of health care reform legislation in late March will have a big impact on Texas, as an estimated 6 million Texans have been going without health care insurance.
Reforms are expected to return billions of dollars to Texas through health insurance tax credits for middle class and low-income Texans and Medicaid coverage for the poorest citizens.
“Medicaid expansion to cover working poor parents of children on Texas Medicaid today will be 100 percent federally funded for three years, with the state getting nine federal dollars for each state dollar from 2020 on forward,” said Anne Dunkelberg of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a non-partisan, Austin-based research and advocacy group.
“Twice as many now-uninsured Texans will gain coverage by purchasing affordable private insurance through the new Health Insurance Exchange as will gain Medicaid, bringing even more federal dollars to Texas with no state matching dollars required.”
The reform keeps in place Texas’ private insurance and health care delivery sector, while filling the gaps that have left too many Texans lacking care or overwhelmed by debt, she added.
Meanwhile, the Senate State Affairs Committee had a March 31 interim meeting, taking testimony from officials on the impact of health care reform here in Texas.
Insurance Commissioner Mike Geeslin suggested the fiscal impact on his agency would be large but uncertain, as there has not been a such a large policy undertaking in decades. He said the Department of Insurance will prepare for a range of scenarios and develop a consumer education effort.
Health and Human Services Commissioner Tom Suehs said expansions required by health care reform increase Medicaid eligibility up to 130 percent of the federal poverty level, potentially adding more than 2 million Texans to the Medicaid rolls.
H1N1 shots still recommended
Overall, flu activity in Texas is classified as sporadic but the state health department is continuing to encourage people to get the H1N1 flu vaccination now to protect themselves.
More than 50 hospitalizations and at least three deaths related to H1N1 influenza were reported in the month of March in Texas.
Health Commissioner Dr. David Lakey on March 31 said, “There is plenty of vaccine to go around. People who have not been vaccinated should do so now.”
Hutchison to finish Senate term
U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced March 31 that she will complete her term in the Senate, which expires in 2012.
In her announcement delivered at San Antonio airport, Hutchison said, “For family reasons, I had planned to begin making a transition home to Texas this spring, but it is clear to me that the stakes in our nation’s Capitol have never been higher. President Obama’s victory on health care legislation has emboldened those who want an even bigger and more intrusive federal government.”
Hutchison, the ranking member of two powerful committees, had planned to resign from the Senate whether she won or lost in her bid to be the Republican nominee for governor of Texas.
Incumbent Gov. Rick Perry, who won the GOP nomination for governor, praised Hutchison’s decision to remain in the Senate.
Judge denies request to intervene
A Travis County state district judge on March 31 denied Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s request to intervene in the county’s first same-sex divorce case.
Abbott’s deputies had filed court papers arguing that the two women, who had legally married in Massachusetts, could not legally be granted a divorce in Texas.
Judge Scott Jenkins, who granted the divorce in February, said a Dallas divorce case currently under appeal could provide precedent on the legality of same-sex divorce. In that case, which involves two men, the Dallas County state district judge rejected Abbott’s attempt to intervene. The Texas 5th District Court of Appeals in Dallas is scheduled to hear arguments in that case on April 21.
In 2005, Texas voters passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
Rebate program to launch April 7
Texans may call (877) 780-3039 or visit www.TexasPowerfulSmart.org, beginning at 7 a.m. April 7, to reserve rebates under a program promoted by the state comptroller’s office. The rebates may be used to buy “Energy Star” energy-efficient appliances and replace the same type of old, functional appliance. The purchase period start date for all appliances is April 16 and the program will end “when all funds are exhausted.”