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SENATOR SHAPLEIGH: TEXAS HEALTH CARE MAJOR LEGISLATIVE PRIORITY
February 16, 2009

Texas today is the least insured state in the nation, with no Texas city even reaching the national average in citizens with health insurance. Much of this can be blamed on health care premiums increasing more than 86 percent from 2000 to 2007. When it comes to health care professionals, Texas has fewer physicians and nurses per capita than any large industrial state.

Written by Senator Eliot Shapleigh, www.shapleigh.org

EL PASO - Today, Senator Eliot Shapleigh (D-El Paso) highlights six important bills he has filed relating to health care for Texans.

Texas today is the least insured state in the nation, with no Texas city even reaching the national average in citizens with health insurance. Much of this can be blamed on health care premiums increasing more than 86 percent from 2000 to 2007. When it comes to health care professionals, Texas has fewer physicians and nurses per capita than any large industrial state.

With the comptroller's recent predictions, Texas stands to lose 111,000 jobs in the next six months. Already, 220,000 Texans have filed unemployment claims, making hanging onto health care that much more important. By recent estimates, more than a million jobs may disappear across the nation as a result of this ongoing recession, hitting the nation's metropolitan areas the worst.

"Here is the reality behind the rhetoric. 5.83 million Texans do not have health insurance—one in four—making Texas the least insured state in the nation. Not a single Texas city even reaches the national average in citizens with health insurance," Senator Shapleigh said. "From 2000 to 2007, Texas families saw their health insurance premiums soar 86.8 percent—nearly six times more than their median earnings increased. 220,000 Texans have filed for unemployment insurance and another 111,000 will lose jobs soon—We can, we must focus on better health in Texas."

During this session, key votes will come on five critical health issues: funding 12-month continuous eligibility in Medicaid; expansion of CHIP; increasing the number of health professionals practicing in the state; reforming the state mental health system; and eliminating the interest lists on which some of Texas' most vulnerable citizens—the aging and the disabled—wait for over a decade for services.

Senator Shapleigh has filed more than 20 health and human services-related bills for this session. These include the following:

·         SB 577: This bill would expand the children's health insurance program (CHIP) to include children under children the age of 19 in families whose net income is at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level. The bill allows the Health and Human Services Commission to set insurance premiums on a sliding scale for families with incomes between 200 and 300 percent of the federal poverty level. The bill would also create and option for families above the 300 percent limit to purchase health benefits through CHIP.

·         SB 349: This bill would extend Medicaid enrollment to 12 months. Currently, children receiving Medicaid benefits must reapply for coverage every six months.

·         SB 202: This bill would allow qualified, out-of-state doctors to begin seeing patients while waiting for their licensure applications to be processed. The bill would allow the Texas Medical Board to extend provisional medical licenses to out-of-state doctors who are licensed and in good standing in another state, sponsored by a currently licensed Texas doctor, and will practice in medically underserved areas of Texas.

·         SB 350: This bill would provide continued health insurance coverage for family members in the event of a policy rescission. The bill would require insurers to offer clients the opportunity to obtain a new policy with benefits equal to those of the canceled or rescinded policy or contract.

·         SB 206: This bill would require insurers to report to the Texas Department of Insurance the cancelation and rescission rates of their health benefits plans. This report would include the number of enrollees their cancelations or rescissions would effect and the insurer's reasons for the cancelation or rescission.

·         SB 207: This bill would ban insurers from offering monetary compensation to their employees based on rescinding, canceling or limiting of health coverage to their clients.

You may follow these and other bills at Texas Legislature Online. To read more about how Texas compares to other states on issues including health care, education and the environment, please read "Texas on the Brink: How Texas Ranks Among the 50 States."

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Click below to watch a pre-session video outlining Senator Shapleigh's health priorities for the session


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