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Austin, Texas – Lawmakers and advocates from diverse organizations today urged the Legislature to increase access to affordable health insurance now, pointing to new polling data showing strong support among Texans for immediate action. The group announced health coverage priorities for the legislative session at a press conference this morning at the Capitol. Today's event offered a preview of information to be shared with legislators during “Cover Texas Now!,” a day of coordinated advocacy on health coverage on Tuesday.
In a statewide poll conducted in January by Baselice and Associates, Inc. for the Texas Hospital Association, 45 percent of registered voters said that “making health insurance more affordable and accessible” was the most important issue for the Legislature to address, ranking it first place above improving public education and creating jobs
“That’s not surprising. Texas has the highest rate of uninsured in the nation. With the downturn in the economy, Texans are concerned about being able to afford health coverage, and get health care services for their families,” said Dan Stultz, M.D., FACP, FACHE, president/chief executive officer of the Texas Hospital Association.
Anticipating federal action on health care issues, the poll asked if respondents agreed or disagreed that the Texas Legislature also should make health care a priority. “An overwhelming majority – 77 percent – said health care should be a priority for the state, even if the federal government is taking action. This just reinforces that Texans understand that changes are needed in the private insurance market as well as in government programs, such as Medicaid, Medicare and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Clearly, Texans expect lawmakers in Austin and Washington to help them access affordable health coverage now,” Stultz said.
Dozens of legislators have introduced bills this session to help Texas improve access to quality, affordable health coverage this session. Several explained proposals at the press conference. Rep. Elliott Naishtat filed House Bill 862 to make it easier for more children to receive health coverage through CHIP.
"In tough economic times, many families need help. As unemployment rates rise, so do the numbers of uninsured. Texas has the opportunity to access additional federal funds – $396 million in 2009 alone – by changing Texas law to allow more children to receive health insurance through CHIP. It is important to note that for every dollar the state spends to cover a child through CHIP, the federal government gives the state $2.52. Spending $1 to make sure children have health coverage and access to primary care doctors for ongoing preventive care, and getting $2.52 back, is a prudent investment," Naishtat said.
Referring to legislative proposals to set minimum medical loss ratios, Rep. Rafael Anchia said, "I respect that the health insurance companies need to make a reasonable profit, but as legislators, we need to find a way to make sure that insurers aren’t making coverage unaffordable. Too many Texans can't afford health coverage as it is.”
A medical loss ratio shows the portion of health insurance premium dollars spent on health care as opposed to non-medical costs like insurer administration, marketing and profit.
The press conference kicks off “Cover Texas Now!,” a day of coordinated advocacy on health coverage. Advocacy and policy organizations will bring citizen lobbyists from across the state together on Tuesday to attend issue briefings in the morning before dispersing to meet with their elected officials to discuss policy changes needed to get more Texans affordable, comprehensive health coverage. Participants will close the day with a reception at the Capitol.
“Cover Texas Now!” participants will urge the Legislature to:
- Maximize the benefit of Medicaid and CHIP;
- Implement common-sense regulations to give Texas a more consumer-oriented health insurance market; and
- Use new federal economic recovery dollars to move forward on health coverage
Organizations participating in “Cover Texas Now!” include:
- Center for Public Policy Priorities
- Children's Defense Fund
- Christian Life Commission
- Harris County Healthcare Alliance
- Integrated Care Collaboration
- La Fe Policy Research and Education Center
- Methodist Healthcare Ministries
- National Multiple Sclerosis Society – Texas Chapters
- Texans Care for Children
- Texas ACORN
- Texas Finish Line Campaign
- Texas Hospital Association
- Texas Impact
- Texas Legal Services Center
- TexHealth Coalition
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